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I’ve been quite priviliged through the years to be able to observe, within my global blue chip client base , some of the fascinating innovation strategies that market leaders have pursued.

What is it they do?

Many of them make big, bold decisions that help to frame their innovative thinking and hence, their active strategies.

For example, they:

  • make big bets. In many industries, there are big market and industry transformations that are underway. For example, there’s no doubt that mobile banking is going to be huge, and its going to happen fast with a lot of business model disruption. Innovative financial organizations are willing to make a big bet as to its scope and size, and are innovating at a furious pace to keep up with fast changing technology and even faster evolving customer expectations
  • make big transformations: I’m dealing with several organizations who realize that structured operational activities that are based on a centuries old style of thinking no longer can take them into a future that will demand more agility, flexibility and ability to react in real time to shifting demand. They’re pursuing such strategies as building to demand, rather than building to inventory; or pursuing mass customization projects so that they don’t have to compete in markets based on price.
  • undertake big brand reinforcement: one client, realizing the vast scope and impact of social networking on their brand image, made an across the board decision to boost their overall advertising and marketing spend by 20%, with much of the increase going to online advertising. In addition, a good chunk of existing spending is being diverted as well. Clearly, the organization believes that they need to make bi broad, sweeping moves to keep up to date with the big branding and marketing change that is now underway worldwide.
  • anticipate big changes: there’s a lot of innovative thinking going on with energy, the environment and health care. Most of the organizations that have had me in for a keynote on the trends that are providing for growth opportunities have a razor sharp focus on these three areas, anticipating the rapid emergence of big opportunities at a very rapid pace.
  • pursue big math: quite a few financial clients are looking at the opportunities for innovation that come from “competing with analytics,” which offers new ways of examining risk, understanding markets, and drilling down into customer opportunity in new and different ways.
  • focus on big loyalty: one client stated their key strategic goal during the downturn this way: “we’re going to nail the issue of customer retention, by visiting every single one in the next three months to make sure that they are happy and that their needs are being met.” Being big on loyalty means working hard to ensure that existing revenue streams stay intact, and are continually enhanced.
  • focus on big innovation: one client stated their innovation plan in a simple yet highly motivating phrase: “think big, start small, scale fast.” Their key goal is to build up their experiential capital in new areas by working on more innovation projects than ever before. They want to identify big business opportunities, test their potential, and then learn how to roll out new solutions on a tighter, more compact schedule than ever before.
  • thinking big change in scope. One client became obsessed with the innovation strategy of going “upside down” when it came to product development. Rather than pursuing all ideas in house, they opened up their innovation engine to outsiders, looking for more partnership oriented innovation (with suppliers and retailers, for example); open innovation opportunities, and customer-sourced innovation. This lit a fuse under both their speed for innovation as well as their creativity engine
  • innovate in a big way locally: we’re in a big, global world, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t innovate locally. One client in the retail space pursues an innovation strategy that allows for national, coordinated efforts in terms of logistics, merchandising and operations, yet also allows a big degree of freedom when it comes to local advertising, marketing and branding.
  • share big ideas. One association client pursued an innovation that was relentless on community knowledge sharing. They knew if they could build an association culture in which people shared and swapped insight on a regular basis on how to deal with fast changing markets and customers, that they could ensure their members had a leg up and could stay ahead of trends. Collaborative knowledge is a key asset going forward into the future, and there’s a lot of opportunity for creative, innovative thinking here.
  • be big on solving customers problems. Several clients have adopted an innovation strategy that is based on the theme, “we’re busy solving customers problems before they know they have a problem,” or conversely, “we’re providing the customer with a key solution, before the customer knows that they need such a solution.” That’s anticipatory innovation, and it’s a great strategy to pursue.
  • align strategies to the big bets. There’s a lot of organizations out there who are making “big bets” and link innovation strategies to those bets. WalMart has bold goals for the elimination of all packaging by a certain date; this is forcing a stunning amount of innovation within the packaging sector. Some restaurants aim to reduce food and packaging waste by a factor of dozens; this is requiring stunning levels of creativity in the kitchen.

These are but a few examples and the list could go on; the essence of the thinking is that we are in a period of big change, and big opportunity comes from bold thinking and big creativity!

I spend a lot of time speaking to global financial organizations —some of the world’s largest institutions — helping them understand what they need to do from an innovation perspective to stay ahead of fast paced change.

These talks are often aimed at the idea of “how do we need to transition our advisory services — as financial planners, investment advisors, wealth managers — to keep up with fast paced change?”

No where is that question more important than when thinking about the impact of technology and social networks on investing. Think about the change that the investment industry faces. We are witnessing the early stages of a massive transition of wealth from one generation to another. The numbers are staggering: we’ll see $12 to $18 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfer In the next12 years (US GDP is $12 trillion) in North America; and by 2053, some $130 trillion will have moved from one generation to another.

When it comes to financial services, adopt change as a mantra and prepare yourself to reach, support and interact with Gen-Connect in new and different ways.

That’s a lot of money sloshing around — and much of it is going to a new, tech-savvy financial consumer.

This next generation — I call them Gen-Connect — continue to aggressively integrate technology into their lives; they’re busy researching health care, insurance, retirement planning and investment advice online, on Facebook and through other social channels.

So what do you do? Adopt change as a mantra and prepare yourself to reach, support and interact with Gen-Connect in new and different ways.

Here’s a list of innovation strategies I provided in a recent keynote for a major global financial institution

1. Focus on growth

With so much volatility in the financial sector, it’s all too easy to take your eye off of the “opportunity ball.”

Yet there are huge opportunities that surround us ; probably the biggest is that we are going to witness a massive intergenerational transfer of wealth from the baby boomer generation to their uber-wiredGen-Connect children. In every area of the world this is going to involve a requirement for a lot of financial advice. As I noted in my remarks for a recent keynote to a group of senior bankers: “Never before has the need for financial advice for Australians been greater; only 20% of Australians are currently getting professional advice.”The same holds true for North America.

That means there are tremendous opportunities for growth! For many, access to financial advice is still too hard and complicated – that’s why it’s a great time to innovate, in order to build market share!!!!

2. Structure for fast paced change

There are several certainties in the financial sector as a result of the impact of technology.

We will see more business model change as companies leverage technology to change relationships in the world of wealth management; we will see more sophisticated competition as a result, and continuous business model disruption with new, young upstarts that really know how to leverage technology and social network relationships. Combine this with continual shifts in consumer behaviour as we manage more of our money and investments using online tools — and speed things up with even faster technology-driven fast change, such as with the impact of mobile technologies.

What happens when ‘there’s an App for everything’ in wealth management? That’s what you need to keep up with!

3. Reshape brand messages faster

Clearly there’s a lot of fast-paced change in financial services , and it’s critical that financial institutions continue to reshape their brand at the pace of rapidly changing consumer perception.

Part of this has to do with how quickly volatility comes and goes. Noted Jim Buchanan, Senior VP of Consumer Marketing at the Bank of America in an article in Advertising Age, October 2009: “Six months ago, we were trying to re-assure the market and consumers that we are safe and secure….now consumers are telling us they’re not worried about those things anymore…..What they are interested in is ‘How can you help me manage my finances?‘”

Innovative organizations ensure that the brand message evolves at the pace of a world in which volatility is the new normal. As a financial manager, you must make sure that your brand and image are seen to be modern, up to date, and in tune with the brand expectations of Gen-Connect. You can’t be “your grandfathers’ wealth manager” anymore.

4. Adapt to momentum of financial consumer change

Quite simply, the new financial client is online in a big way, and smart financial organizations will evolve their service and support message to these platforms.

The numbers are staggering; in the case one recent keynote I provided for a major financial institution, I emphasized that:

    • 147 million people interact globally on social networks via their mobile phones – we can expect 1 billion within five years!
    • usage of Twitter continues to grow at a staggering pace — and people spend more time on Facebook each week than they do on watching television.
    • they spend far less time reading newspapers and magazines in paper fashion — and in fact, some don’t look at such products at all!

The result of this i that they are increasingly influenced by advertising, marketing and branding messages that they see online. If you are still trying to reach out to them through traditional media, you might be missing them altogether.

It’s not just about marketing — it’s also about customer support. The entire world of customer support has gone online, and you need to be able to support them in the world to which they are accustomed.

The bottom line for financial and investment advisors is that social networks are an extremely effective tool to keep core clients in the loop; as an outreach tool, they’re fast, effective, unique, quirky, and certainly the story of the day. Financial advisors have to go where the client is going, and should be thinking about how to become socially-networked oriented advisers. Given regulatory issues, that can be a big challenge!

5. Adjust platforms to this changing behaviour

I continue to emphasize with my global financial clients that the impact of mobile technologies on financial services is absolutely massive. Think about Wizzit, a South African service that is essentially a text message based banking system.The reality is that the new financial consumer expects to be served on new platforms: as noted by Thomas Kunz, Senior VP at PNC Financial: “Gen-Y does not reconcile chequebooks  and they don’t believe in float. For them, their balance is their balance.”

That’s why PNC has released a “virtual wallet app” available for iPhones. They’re reaching out to this new financial consumer in a big way. That’s why every organization is scrambling to keep up with “Appworld” particularly considering that Apple sold 3 million iPad 3′ within the first 3 days of release.

Aggressive change with business platforms provides big opportunity for business model disruption. A key factor here has to do with new client acquisition: what’s happening is the point of origination of the relationship might change as people transition their banking to mobile devices. Opportunity can come from continuing to build the advisor and distribution channel into these new platforms.

And that’s not a threat – that’s a huge opportunity!

6. Leverage off of new peer-to-peer behaviour trends

The new financial consumer relies more than ever before for advice from their social networks. Peer-to-peer social driven advice through sites such as TradeKing is coming to the forefront: it’s a service that allows people to share stock tips and research through extended social networks.

Does this diminish the role of advisory services — not at all, if you drive in and become a part of the peer-to-peer conversation!

7. Re-orient distribution channels

Here’s another key point: I’ve emphasized to my insurance and other financial clients that the next-generation advisor/broker/agent expects ever more sophisticated technology platforms to help support their role.You’ve got to make sure you are keeping up with their needs.

In one survey in the insurance sector, 80% of brokers indicated that the sophistication of the technology platform of the provider would influence who they would choose to do business with.

According to Kevin Murray, EVP and CIO at New York-based AXA Equitable: “The younger generation of financial professional will almost demand online self-service….they will want to text any questions they have into the service centre or self-service from their mobile device. We’re going to have to be able to provide that capability. It’s how they will operate.”

8. Build your own peer-to-peer collaborative knowledge networks

The new financial advisor is also thinking socially, and is actively looking for peer-to-peer collaborative knowledge. Imagine building a financial advisory team that is collaborative for ideas, share insight on market wins, constantly leverages insight from new branding campaigns that work in unique ways, and constantly shares great idea son new methods of converting leads into clients — that’s how this next generation works!

Back to Kevin Murray: “They will also want an online collaboration tool to …find answers concerning product or questions from their customers. The X and Ygenerations are going to demand a different way of selling and servicing their customers.”

What’s it really all about? Freeing up their time to build opportunity, make sales, close deals.

9. Reduce churn through electronic relationships

Here’s something else to think about according to Chief Marketer (October 2009), “The average brand saw one third of highly loyal consumers in 2007completely defect to another brand in 2008“.

People are far less loyal, and far more likely to jump ship at the drop of a hat. That’s why continuous innovation in terms of the relationship is critical — and that’s maybe why continually transitioning to new technology platforms such as an iPhone app might reduce that churn

10. Better, more focused niche marketing

We’re in the new era  of analytics and analysis, which provides new opportunities for advisors to reach out to markets previously unattainable. As noted by Money Management Executive in October 2009: “Financial advisers generally prefer to manage a small number of high-net-worth clients rather than a large number of small accounts, but recent advances in automation technology could change this dynamic.”

11. Evolve the approach

Insurance and financial advisory services are products that are always sold based on fear — they aren’t bought.

This reality doesn’t go away because of new technologies. What does change is that technology is a powerful enabler that frees advisors forum having to focus on the mundane, routine, time wasting stuff, in order to focus on providing the advice & guidance that advisors can provide. Focus on the core role!

12. Enact change

Many advisors will be in comfortable, established routines. Change is not easy. That’s why organizations in the financial sector that are trying to be innovative need to help existing advisors focus on the opportunity and the benefits that come with rapid change, rather than being fearful of the change that technology is bringing to the industry.

Bottom line? As I sum up in many of my keynotes — “Innovative organizations make bold leaps, in order to keep up — and stay ahead —of a faster future.

I haven’t done of these posts in a while — it’s a semi-regular summary of 10 of the most recent search phrases that resulted in people discovering information in my blog through the last week.

It’s a useful way to see what people around the world might be thinking about, or some of the issues that are top of mind. It’s also a great way to discover some of the unique blog posts throughout my site — with well over 1,000, there’s a lot of useful content in here that you might not find.

You might consider buying a copy of my book, The Future Belongs To Those Who are Fast — it’s a great compendium of the best of these posts from over 10 years of blogging!

You can see some other What’s Hot entries here.

I use some fabulous Web site tracking software — notably Woopra and OpenTracker — both of which give me *real time* insight into what people are discovering on my site, so it’s pretty easy to pull this information together. Here we go:

  • a search for “what trends are driving today’s consumer” led to the Consumer & food category of my blog; it leads to a whole series of blog posts that focus on these issues
  • someone in India looking for “innovations in retail” was led to the post “Creativity, trends and innovation in retail, packaging and consumer goods“, a post from 2005 that still bears powerful relevance to what is happening in these sectors today
  • from South Africa, a search for “futuristic trends in agriculture” led to “10 Big Trends for Agriculture” — a post I wrote many years ago but which continues to be one of the most popular pages on my Web site. And even though it was written in 2005, it still remains powerfully relevant today. I do a LOT of keynotes in the agricultural sector
  • over in Belgium, someone was looking at Google for “new trends in fitness and wellness.” They hit a relatively new post I did earlier this year, “Trend Report: The Future of Health, Fitness and Wellness
  • from Cincinatti, a search for “latest trends in the property and casualty insurance industry” led to “The insurance industry in 2015” , a concise overview of how this industry is undergoing dramatic and fast paced change
  • in Indiana, someone searching for “10 ways to kill innovation (or what not to do)” found the blog post “10 Surefire Ways to Destroy Innovative Thinking,” one of the most favourite blog posts I’ve ever written
  • a search for “fast food industry trends” from someone in Louisiana led to my blog post, “The BIG food industry trend for 2012: Bold Goals, Big Bets
  • If only I had a dollar for each search done where people from the US end up on my site for information on future healthcare trends. A search from a major US pharma company for “key trends business us healthcare market led to “10 major health care / pharmaceutical trends, a really concise summary of the scientific, technological and other trends that are transforming the sector
  • Just moments after this search, someone from Florida was looking for “future healthcare trends , and they were led to a more comprehensive detailed post that gets a lot of traffic, Healthcare 2020: The Transformative Trends That Will REALLY Define Our Future
  • and from the Philippines, a search for the phrase “Leaders are innovative and future – oriented. They focus on getting the job done” led to my blog post, “How future ready is your organization?” It provides some good insight on whether your organization is clearly aligned for what comes next — or is simply stuck in the here and now.

That’s 10 search phrases — and a simple summary of some great insight. Stayed tuned — more “What’s Hot” posts to come!

If you want to track analytics on your own Web site, I highly recommend both Woopra and OpenTracker. Fascinating insight!

I’m honored to be invited to be the closing keynote speaker for this event which starts tomorrow; I speak at the closing lunch on Friday, on the theme, “When Do We Get to Normal? Why Thinking BIG Will Help You Seize The Opportunities of the 21st Century.” I’m sharing headlining duties with two other fascinating speakers.

Jim Carroll will be the closing keynote speaker for the 2011 T. Rowe Price Investment Symposium, offering his thoughts on the global economy, future trends and innovation!

Im my talk, I will be examining three key issues :

  • next generation investor trends. This is somewhat like the talk I did for the National Australian Bank just two years ago – how is the next generation of hyper connected, socially networked investor going to change in terms of wealth management, investment decisions and other activities. There’s a good blog post referenced below, “14 Key Innovation Strategies for Financial Advisors, and Financial Organizations” that you’ll find here.
  • the future and optimism: where are we going to witness the next billion and trillion dollar industries? What’s happening with science, connectivity, manufacturing, skills and innovation that will drive global economies forward?
  • “Designed in Emerging Markets!” – what’s next, and in particular, what’s happening with innovation worldwide — and what does that mean for the global economy.

So much of the global investment community is overdosing on pessimism – I’m not with what I see happening within my global client basis.

As I often observe when I walk out on stage — “I’m a futurist. I can’t walk out there and tell you that your future sucks — because it doesn’t. The world I see is full of innovation, creativity, the reinvention of existing business and the birth of new ones.”

I haven’t done of these posts in a while — it’s an observation of 10 of the most recent search phrases that resulted in people discovering information in my blog through the last week.

It’s a useful way to see what people around the world might be thinking about, or some of the issues that are top of mind. You can see some other What’s Hot entries here.

I’ve got some fabulous new Web site tracking software — notably Woopra and OpenTracker — both of which give me *real time* insight into what people are discovering on my site, so it’s pretty easy to pull this information together.

Here we go:

    • a search for “food product trends marketing” from Ireland resulted in someone hitting what is currently one of the most heavily visited pages on my Web site — “Food industry trends 2011 – Report from a keynote“. Literally a few hundred hits a day!
  • from Bangalore, India, a search for “healthcare industry trends presentation” led to the page “Healthcare 2020: The Transformative Trends That Will REALLY Define Our Future“, also one of the most popular pages on my site. What is evident is that people find a tremendous amount of value in the detailed trends outlines as found in this type of post and the previous food industry post — there are a lot of these scattered throughout my blog covering a wide range of industries. Try the Trends link for a list by industry.
  • another popular search concerns the future of the meetings and events industry. From San Diego this morning, a search for “event industry 2012 trends” led to the post “Future of the meetings / events industry
  • from Singapore, a search for “characteristics of the 21st century” led to the post “10 Unique Characteristics of 21st Century Skills” which is a useful guide to the key HR issues that you are facing now and into the future
  • on the HR theme, it’s kind of funny that someone in Larisa, Greece, did a search this morning for “Jobs of the future 2015“, which took them to the post “Good jobs in Bad Times – I’m interviewed on PBS on future career trends“. Maybe it will help to inspire someone for post-Greek economic meltdown HR innovation!
  • from Kenya, a search for “importance of innovation to consumers” led to the post “The importance of innovation in the era of the “new normal.” This post is a good summery of the key factors which require fast paced innovation today.
  • from Malaysia, someone searching for “future ready organization” hit the post, “How future ready is your organization?”. I wrote that in 2009 – and write about the velocity ratio, the rate of ‘rising tides’ and other factors that might give you a sense of whether your organization is keeping up with the speed of innovation occurring in your industry.
  • out in Madras, India, a search for the phrase “innovation themes for wealth management technology” led to a post that summarized my 2009 keynote for the National Australia Bank – “14 Key Innovation Strategies for Financial Advisors & Financial Organizations”
  • from North Carolina in the US, a search for “bioengineered body parts” odd to the post from 2006, “Bio-engineered body parts, the Cold Store and personalized medicine…” Consider what I wrote in 2006! “The pill bottle linked into my home network grid in order to interact with the prescription drug company. They had specifically engineered this medicine the day before for my own bio-code, based on a quick sampling of my blood and sinus condition that was done at the local Cold Store.”
  • last but not least, someone in Las Vegas did a search this morning for the phrase “things you have to do in vegas during the recession.” That took them to a great post that still works with the current and ongoing volatility in the global economy, “10 Things You Need to Do to Innovate in a Recession

That’s 10 search phrases — and a simple summary of some great insight. Stayed tuned — more “What’s Hot” posts to come!

If you want to track analytics on your own Web site, I highly recommend both Woopra and OpenTracker. Fascinating insight!

Here’s a video clip from my opening keynote for the 94th Annual General Meeting of the PGA of America, in which I talk about the necessity of “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast,” and of the importance of the concept of experiential capital as a foundation for innovation.


I’ve written and spoken about the concept of experiential capital quite a bit through the years – I think in a fast paced economy its one of the most important innovation strategies
that we can undertake.

One particularly good post which can help you get thinking about this concept is “Understanding 21st century capital: Why it’s not just financial capital anymore“, in which I wrote”

Experiential Capital. In a world in which Apple generates 60% of its revenue from products that didn’t exist four years ago, it’s critically important that an organization constantly enhance the skill, capabilities and insight of their people. They do this by constantly working on projects that might have an uncertain return and payback – but which will provide in-depth experience and insight into change. It’s by understanding change that opportunity is defined, and that’s what experiential capital happens to be. In the future, it will be one of the most important assets you can possess.

I also write about the idea in my book Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast, where I made this observation:

“Innovation comes from risk, and risk comes from experience. The most important asset today isn’t found on your balance sheet – it is found in the accumulated wisdom from the many risks that you’ve taken. The more experiential capital you have, the more you’ll succeed.”

I close with the observation: “Investing in experiential capital is one of the most important things you can do.”

When people ask me about the “secrets” of innovative organizations, this is one of the key attributes I outline. They realize they are immersed in a world of fast-paced ideas — and they take on many different projects, some of which are doomed to fail, in order to build the overall experience of the organization.

Which begs the question: how many experiential oriented projects do you have underway that involves new technological platforms, social network and branding or marketing projects; business model innovation or any other number of ideas?

One of the highlights of 2010 had to be the day that I was the opening speaker for the 94th Annual General Meeting of the PGA – Professional Golfers Association of America. It was the first time they have ever had an external speaker open their meeting; I was invited in to discuss the major trends that will continue to impact the growth of the game, and the innovation strategies that could be pursued to accomplish that.

So it is  a fitting way to close out 2010 as we wind down the officer here, by offering up a video clip from that keynote, “Where’s the Growth.” It’s from a section in the talk where I put into perspective some of the key trends and innovations which will provide for sustained economic recovery over time.

There some additional insight on trends going forward into the future in my post, “Trending in 2011: 10 Major Trends to Start Thinking About Now.”

Here’s to 2011 –it’s going to be a great year. Indeed, the future is going to be fabulous!

Here’s another week of unique insight from my blog tracking tool, that links the search phrases that people used to find a page on my site.

This is week #3. This is proving to be a great tool for those who track my site to discover some of the information buried in several thousand blog posts — and might provide you with a unique way of thinking about future trends or innovation!

First is the search phrase that was used on Google, Bing or some other search engine — then a bit of commentary that includes the Web page on my site that the phrase led to.

  • “Innovative bottle caps structure trend” – this search came out of Google’s China search engine, and led them to my “Coping with Ketchup – Innovating in a Fast World” post from 2005. This was a fun little post, having to do with what happened when an upside down ketchup bottle made it into our house – I began to build a story and entire speech topic around the “Coping with Ketchup” phrase
  • “What are the key innovations and technologies for 2010” – led to my “14 key innovation strategies for financial advisors and financial organizations” post, which captures the essence of those trends — mobile, location intelligence and social networks all coming together in a fast blur!
  • “Social networking” – speaking of social networking, this search phrase led to my “Why Social Networking is Like Teenage Sex!” blog post
  • “Rock documentaries list” – this led to my “10 Most Important Innovation-Themed Rock Documentaries of All Time“. Did you know I once had two short term gigs as a temp-roadie for KISS? Those were the days!
  • “Pictures of accountants” – in Google Images, a search for a picture of an accountant leads to the post “Accounting Beyond Accountability“, which provides a little bit more info on my unique background, and which provides even better insight into “The New Face of Manufacturing”
  • “Rules for working at home” — to what I think is one of my best posts – “10 Rules for Working at Home“. This October, I passed by the 20 year mark in terms of working full time out of a home office!
  • “Pharmaceutical consumer trend” – led to the post, “10 major health care / pharmaceutical trends“, which provides a great summary of how this industry is shifting. I’ve done quite a few pharma-oriented keynotes recently, including for Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson
  • “Globalization” – resulted in the blog post, “High velocity globalization, massive markets, major trends.” This was a blog post done just a few weeks before the major market meltdown of autumn 2008. Yet the essence of these trends still holds true today
  • “speack upside down”- a misspelled search led to “Can we talk upside down innovation” which is a great little post about partnership-oriented innovation. Maybe they were looking for something else, but this is still a useful post if you want to challenge yourself as to how you think about innovation.
  • “Start small and scale fast” – led to “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast” which is my mantra for innovation

You can look at prior weeks reports under the “What’s Hot” category of my blog.

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