Beyond Help

Faith, Money, and Guilt

Profitable Hobbies

Corrections or additions?

These articleswere published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 11, 1998. All rights reserved.

Cashless, But Not Strapped

Futurologists take note: the cashless society is coming.

"It may take a hundred or two hundred years, but it’s coming,"

says Robert Crooks, president and CEO of First Digital Bank Corporation,

in a tone of great understatement that suggests one or two decades

or less. "Eventually flat money will disappear," he predicts.

Crooks will speak on "The Coming Cashless Society " at a meeting

of 55PLUS on Thursday, March 19, at 10 a.m. at the Jewish Center of

Princeton. Call 609-924-6328. Though the organization consists of

men who are retired or have flexible working hours, the lecture is

open to anyone, including women, for a $1 donation.

Crooks graduated from Drexel University in 1986 with a degree in computer

science, has been a technical consultant to Fortune 10 companies.

The author of the privately published "The Cashless Society,"

Crooks has been building online transaction-based systems for several

Wall Street brokerages and has done the satellite links for Viacom

and electronic messaging on USA Networks.

In 1996 he founded First Digital Bank Corporation and has just moved

it to 195 Nassau Street, 609-466-2328. He plans "to capitalize

on the opportunity in electronic marketing of those certificates of

authorization which uniquely identify you," Crooks says. He is

referring to credit and debit cards, digital signatures, smart cards,

EZPass (the smart card now used by the Port Authority to "collect"

tolls from cars passing through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels) and


First Digital has installed a variety of electronic money transfer

programs for some of the nation’s best known companies, Crooks says.

Last September it operated an E-cash bar for the Marriott Corporation,

arranging for $60,000 in digital cash on 3,000 smart cards at the

Electronic Commerce World Expo in Philadelphia.

The firm now has a digital wallet product that allows the consumer

to execute transactions. It partners with both of the major card producing

firms and is working with one of the major "transaction clearers"

on the roll out of a new product.

Some familiar instances of cashlessness — credit cards and debit

cards — are already here. Then there’s the smart card, which is

growing at 30 percent a year in the United States, but is growing

exponentially in Europe and Asia. The difference between the electronic

stripe and the smart cards? An electronic stripe card has from 1 to

8 kilobytes of memory, but a smart card, with chip embedded, is capable

of much more memory and of processing. It has computing capabilities,

unlike your credit card. Both kinds of cards can authenticate the


In one place the cashless society has definitely arrived. "In

Salzburg, Austria," Crooks notes, "there’s a chip embedded

in a Swatch watch and you just swipe the watch when you buy something,

when you go through ski lifts, restaurants, hotels, museums, Mozart’s

birthplace, St. Peter’s Catacombs, use all public transportation,

go to concerts, everything."

It can be a profitable business; companies cleared $107 million worth

of electronic transactions last year. "An electronic transaction-based

society is evolutionary," says Crooks. How fast it will come "depends

on consumer acceptance."

"ATMs are now ubiquitous," Crooks says, "but when they

first came in, the wisdom was that nobody would use them, that people

would rather go to a teller." And it took a decade before the

ATMs caught on. ATMs still use the debit card, though Chase Manhattan

now has a pilot program on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that uses

both smart and debit cards, Crooks says.

And PC banking was at first an abysmal failure, but now, eight years

later, there are over 400 banking services that use Internet banking.

Acceptance of smart cards is excellent in Europe and

Asia. But smart cards have been slow to catch on in the United States:

Merchants are resisting the more expensive installation and transaction

costs. For the Upper West Side test program, not enough merchants

were willing to install the card reading paraphernalia, and the transaction

costs were substantially higher for those who did.

At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, smart cards offered by First Union

Bank and Visa frustrated some consumers who had no way to check how

much was left was on their cards. Disgusted users were throwing their

cards away with cash left on them. (First Digital’s card, in contrast,

makes use of a $1 Okidata card reader; this key-chain size reader

tells how much cash remains.)

The largest producers of smart cards are based in France — Gemplus

and Schlumberger. There are two kinds of smart cards, the contactless

card, which uses radio technology with a range of 3 to 10 meters,

and the contact card, which has physical contacts: the smart card

has a chip embedded which can be read by a smart card reader.

When produced in bulk, the cheapest reader for a contact card is $50;

a contactless card reader costs $200, Crooks says. Smart cards themselves

can cost $15 to manufacture. And there’s another problem: You can

load up to $500 on a Chase smart card, the highest limit among smart

cards, but under current policies, if you lose the card, you lose

your money.

Still, smart cards are already functioning as debit cards, health

cards, drivers’ licenses, telephone cards, mobile phone security cards,

airline E-tickets, travelers’ checks, photocopying cards, ski resort

lift tickets, student ID and charge cards, as well as being used in

financial transactions and in pay TV. Smart cards have been highly

successful at Florida State University and Duke University. And that

Austrian watch with a chip? "Successful," Crooks says.

Unlike most smart cards, the EZPass immediately had a measure of success

in the area (and there is talk of expanding the automated toll taking

to the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, where anything

would be better than throwing quarters and dimes into those wire bins).

But while consumers have adopted it, it still hasn’t paid for itself;

it costs approximately $60 per unit.

Who will dominate smart cards here? Mondex — the electronic purse

used by 32 million Europeans — has just signed all the banks in

Canada. In the United States, says Crooks, Visa and American Express

are in the race with Chase Manhattan and "everyone is battling

it out." Companies are struggling to get market share — pretty

much ignoring the supposed standard — but once some company reaches

critical mass it can declare its own protocol the standard.

How can you maintain your privacy with this new technology? Crooks

offers this advice: "Closely monitor your transactions, be reluctant

to give out your social security number, insure that credit card numbers

given out over the Internet are using use secure socket layers (SSL)

or secure electronic transaction (SET). Both Netscape and Microsoft

use this SSL technology, and Microsoft has extended it with Private

Communications Technology — PCT," he says. He offers Fidelity

on the Web as a good example of a secure site technology.

The Personal Computer Smart Card (PCSC) standard will be built into

the operating systems of Windows ’98 and NT 5.0, Crooks says. Checklessness

is even coming to governments. The state of Utah is currently adopting

the smart card to pay benefits. And by the end of 1999 the United

States federal government is mandated to deliver all benefits electronically,

Crooks says.

Whether by smart cards or not, digital technology has changed the

nature of our transactions. Certain biometric technologies — biological

markers that identify you — are already being deployed in the

marketplace. You can be identified by the points on the iris of your

eye (a Sarnoff development), by your finger prints, read for instance

on a computer keyboard or at an ATM, and computers will also recognize

your right to access by your voice.

Who should possess this technology and who should have the right to

it? Crooks poses these troubling questions for the technology already

here or coming into being. And the problems are not going to wait

a century or two.

First Digital Bank Corporation’s URL is:

More discussion of these issues will be found in Princeton Borough

and Township on RCN’s channel 8 every other Monday at 8 p.m., beginning

March 23. Crooks will host a show called "The Digital Frontier."

Crooks takes jibes about his memorable name with a laugh and assures

us that he’s highly legit. "Should I change my name?" he wonders.

— Joan Crespi

Top Of Page
Beyond Help

There’s a big difference between a help desk and an

IT command center, says Nicholas Felicione. He teaches an "Empowering

Your Help Desk," Network Associates seminar on Thursday, March

19, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at the Marriott. It is free by reservation;

call 800-707-1274.

With a staff of seven, Felicione is regional director of Network Associates,

a $1 billion software firm, formerly known as McAfee, and based in

California ( His territory covers the

area from New England to West Virginia. A business administration

major at Queens College, Class of ’84, he had previously worked for

Digital Equipment Corporation and a small New Jersey software firm.

Felicione says that help desk products — and there are 175 of

them on the market — are all based on a call tracking system.

"Ours is an IT command center, and the Gartner Group rates us

number one in this," says Felicione. The difference? A command

center can do more than just take and track calls; it can take control

of the caller’s desktop. You can’t get your program running? Someone

at the command center can take control of your PC and fix the problem.


Top Of Page
Faith, Money, and Guilt

It’s no longer taboo to discuss sex, politics, and religion

— but ask somebody their salary and you’re likely to elicit silence.

This is symptomatic of a America’s discomfort in talking about money,

says David Miller, a student at Princeton Theological Seminary

who was formerly a partner at an investment banking firm in London,

England. "Money seems to be one of the last great taboos in certain

circles," he says. "Money we really don’t want to acknowledge.

We sidestep it. But whether we acknowledge it or not, money plays

a very central role in our lives — it probably has since childhood."

Miller is helping to organize a two-day workshop that grapples with

money as a faith issue. "Soul in the Workplace II" is based

on a conference held last year. It is being sponsored by Nassau Presbyterian

and Trinity Episcopal churches on Friday and Saturday, March 27 and

28. Call 609-279-0276.

Miller’s co-facilitators are Patricia Kidd, a market researcher

who works for Wirthlin Worldwide and heads Nassau Presbyterian’s Faith

in the Workplace Group, and David Prescott, who works with a

private investment company.

Last year’s workshop, "Soul in the Workplace," drew a crowd

of 50. "People resoundingly said you’re on to something please

do another one," says Miller. "We did a bit of informal market

research and came up with doing a workshop exploring the meaning of


This group may be hitting the nail on the head. The United States

is considered the most religious country in the world; yet it’s also

the wealthiest and seems to be more obsessed with work than most nations.

But, says Miller, the issues of work and money are often treated separately

from faith. "The churches need to pay more attention to work lives,"

says Miller. "These two areas need to be connected and harmonized

and not separated. If you take basic tenet of Judeo-Christianity,

God is supposed to be central to our lives. That means that we should

find God in everyday life, in which we know and live and exist and

work and play, and God shouldn’t be pushed out to the edges."

One of the exercises participants will do is a "money autobiography"

which asks participants to closely examine their own personal perceptions

of money. Questions include: What’s your earliest recollection of

money? How did your parents handle money? Was money discussed openly

over dinner or in hushed tones? What’s your current financial situation

and how did you feel about it? How would characterize yourself —

poor, rich, generous, or stingy?

The three facilitators have already taken this rather revealing questionnaire,

and all have expressed a stunned realization that money has played

such a subtly commanding role in their lives.

Miller expects to receive his master’s in divinity from the seminary

in May and plans to continue his work toward a doctorate, also at

the Theological Seminary. Money-wise, he has weathered a dramatic

salary decrease in his mid-career choice to leave investment banking

and become a minister. "If it’s possible to take a 100 percent

paycut, I did," he says. "It was a huge change. It was maybe

the understatement of my life to go from a partner in an investment

bank and all that goes from that to living in a student dormitory.

The laundromat is now a central part of my life."

Before becoming a senior research executive with Wirthlin, Kidd worked

for Savitz Research, another marketing research firm that has an office

in Carnegie Center. She also owned her own business, Duracom, an advertising

and promotion firm based in Manhattan.

"One thing that I can say is it really stopped me in my tracks

and made me think about the decisions that I’ve made," she says.

"And there’s a Christian context to all of this and that’s the

idea that what you have in terms of time and talents and the money

really isn’t yours. It’s given to you by God. Your life is really

about stewardship."

Unfortunately, the three attest, you’re probably not going to hear

much about money or work in church. "Churches are terrible about

discussing the role that money has in people’s lives," says Kidd.

"Even issues of work and faith are issues that most ministers

aren’t comfortable talking about, and the seminaries aren’t set up

to deal with commercial life and realities. There’s a split between

what people hear Monday through Friday and what people hear Sunday."

Kidd is also aware of a growing sense of discomfort concerning money.

"We’re living in the best economic age that this country have

ever seen but most people think that something is not right. It’s

like the best of times and the worst of times."

There’s no doubt that in an area like Princeton, guilt and money seem

to walk hand in hand. Prescott touts this statistic: the United States,

he says, constitutes six percent of the world’s population and yet

has 40 percent of the wealth. "That means that 94 percent of the

population is left with 60 percent," he says.

"One of the exercises we’re going to do is have people identify

feelings associated with money," says Prescott. "There’s no

doubt that guilt will be there — and contention."

But Prescott must deal with the personal challenge that

wealth levies on one’s spirituality. The executive vice president

at Gund Investment Corporation for nearly 20 years, he worked as an

attorney in Manhattan for nearly a decade prior to that. "The

whole issue with money started with me when I was practicing law,"

he says. "After three or four years of practicing law I made more

money than my father had ever made and more money than I thought I

would ever make. And in my career I have made more money than I thought

I would ever make."

"How can one be affluent and faithful at the same time in a world

where there is a so much poverty and where so many people struggle

to get by?" he asks.

He resolves his own conflict, he says, by looking inward, and letting

his privilege and power work for others. A practicing Episcopalian,

Prescott is currently on the board of directors of the Institute for

Servant Leadership, a not-for-profit educational ministry dedicated

to exploring theological models of leadership. (It’s next program

is April 17 through 19, in Kanuga, North Carolina, and features Robert

Bellah, author of "Habits of the Heart," and Sharon

Parks, a well-known ethicist; call 704-258-8044).

"It seems to me that in order to really look at issues of peace

and justice in economic terms, one has to really get in touch with

his or her own feelings about money," says Prescott. "There

was a great rabbi who once said that the redemption of the world begins

with me."

— Peter J. Mladineo

Top Of Page
Profitable Hobbies

What do Apple Computers, Nike, and Mrs. Smith’s Pies

have in common? Carol Zetterberg reports that all these businesses

started out as hobbies. Apple’s Steve Jobs started tinkering

with computers in his family garage and somehow turned his efforts

into a mammoth company.

Similarly, Nike was started by a high school basketball coach in Oregon

who sought the help of a cobbler to redesign what he felt were inferior

sneakers worn by his team. And, like Mrs. Smith, he took to selling

his wares out of the back of his car.

"There is an unending array of hobbies that people have turned

into moneymakers," says Zetterberg, who gives a class at Mercer

County College on "How to Make a Profit on Your Hobby" on

Saturday, March 14, at 9 a.m. Call 609-586-9446. The cost is $25;

plus a $20 materials charge. She advises participants to bring hobby

samples as well.

Zetterberg managed to convert two avocations, writing and flexible

employment, into vocations. With a degree in English from Oregon College

of Education (now Western Oregon State) and a master’s from Pacific

Lutheran University (Class of 1972), she has written for the Courier

Times and for the Intercounty newspaper chain on "ordinary people

doing extraordinary things." "I’ve always been fascinated

with what are people’s passions," she says. "And trying to

help them make that passion more a part of their lives, if it’s possible."

Now she writes for Guideposts magazine, an popular inspirational publication

founded by Norman Vincent Peale, and teaches writing at the College

of New Jersey.

Previously, Zetterberg was executive director of the National Network

of Work-Time Options, an organization with a self-explanatory mission

that she started. "That was a hobby that turned into a very time-consuming

business," she says.

Working for yourself — especially making a hobby pay — seems

to be growing in popularity every second. The reason, Zetterberg reports,

is that while society seems to be getting more obsessed with work,

relative happiness in the workplace is not necessarily improving at

the same clip. "I see a lot of unhappy people," she says.

"There are so many people who are working in jobs where they’re

not satisfied. They’re working for somebody else — often large

corporations or small businesses — that are demanding them to

work extremely long hours and not giving them enough say in how things

are being done."

This is a marked difference from the way things used to be. "Employers

were much more amenable to providing a good workplace and were interested

in employees at one time," she reports. "I have seen a real

change in how people feel about their work and how employees feel

about each other in the last 15 years."

One reason: downsizing. "All the layoffs have affected people

a lot," Zetterberg maintains. "A third of them had been laid

off, they were wondering what in the heck to do, a third of them were

worried about being laid off, and another third of them weren’t worried

about being laid off but they were working 11-hour days because everybody

else had been laid off."

Here are some tips from Zetterberg in creating your own little dream


Figure out whether your hobby can actually be converted into

a business. "People who have hobbies do it because they love

it. It’s a passion. And people who have businesses do it to make money.

Can those two things be blended?"

Find out what the business would entail. This should includes

marketing, promotion, and packaging.

Find out whether you are a good businessperson. Zetterberg

draws a distinction between asking that and asking whether the subject

is a good entrepreneur.

Zetterberg adds that "there are several things that people

can do to market their product and make twice as much." This means:

Don’t sell too short. "That’s one of the biggest things,"

she says. "Almost everybody prices too low."

Find out what your tax advantages are. This is frequently

missed by entrepreneurs. There are tax advantages to having your own


But Zetterberg warns that sometimes the advantages to owning

a business may be overwhelmed by the responsibilities. "I’m honest

with them," she says. "Having your own business doesn’t mean

working less; having your own business means working more hours, at

least initially. Although I don’t tell people that until after they’re

at the seminar."

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