Napoleon In His Time

In the history of the world there have been great empires that have risen only to fall. Human history is the history of the great empires that have ruled though the ages. It has always been that throughout the history of civilization, man has tried to win land and in their unending quest for land, they have either suffered humiliating defeats and annihilation or have built the greatest empires of their age. In ancient times the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, the Nauryan Empire of Asoka and the Roman Empire all were made by the ruthlessness of man in their quest for power, control, and wealth. By the late 1700’s on to the world’s stage came Napoleon Bonaparte.

” Power is my mistress” the man whose ego collided with destiny. An ego that grew to the size of Mount Everest with each military victory much like that of Alexander the Great before ruled all of Europe for over a decade. In all of history there has always been those who were born destined to reshape the world and leave a lasting legacy. Alexander the Great, Caesar, Charlemagne, and Washington are at the top of the list of individuals who changed the course of history. Napoleon Bonaparte was such an individual. Like Alexander the Great, was one of history’s greatest military generals. He was a risk taking gambler, a workaholic genius but so often a short term planner that at times led to disastrous results. A temperamental tyrant some have called him, but none can doubt his military amplitude and his ability to seize the moment when opportunity came along.

A mathematical prodigy, whose intellect catapulted him into fame and glory for his remarkable military skills at the height of the French Revolution. A renowned reformer but also a ruthless military commander who used the best tactics not only from studying other campaigns from history but utilized his own innovations like the placement of artillery in key locations that proved to be decisive in winning battles. Even today his military tactics are studied at all military schools all over the world. Aside from all his military achievements, like Charlemagne, is remembered for his reforms. The establishment of the Napoleonic Code is the basis that French law is still used today was one of many reforms that Napoleon implemented.

Some historians considered him one of histories enlightened despots but others now consider his accomplishments in a much better light. But, none the less his vision of a unified Europe where France ruled would never become a reality in his own time. The constant rivalries between Europe’s competing powers, such as Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia that would erupt into two world wars a hundred years later always prevented Napoleon’s dream. Eventually after years of conflicts the pursuit of the European Union would emerge. There are some today attribute this to Napoleon’s vision, which included a common infrastructure and a common legal code. Unlike Hitler in the second World War Napoleon and Charlemagne both had a vision of a unified Europe where reforms in place would benefit all.

It was the French Revolution had alienated the government from the Catholic Church. One of Napoleon’s remarkable skills in diplomacy occurred when he negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the Pope to bring religious and social peace to France. Napoleon appointed several members of the Bonaparte family and close friends of his as monarchs of countries he conquered and as important government figures (his brother Lucien became France’s Minister of Finance). He demanded total loyalty and expected nothing less from those around him. Although their reigns did not survive his downfall, a nephew, Napoleon III, ruled France later in the nineteenth century.

Napoleon was one of the greatest military commanders in history. He has also been portrayed as a power hungry conqueror. Napoleon denied those accusations. He argued that he was building a federation of free peoples in a Europe united under a liberal government. But if this was his goal, he intended to achieve it by taking power in his own hands. However, in the states he created, Napoleon granted constitutions, introduced law codes, abolished feudalism, created efficient governments and fostered education, science, literature and the arts.

When Napoleon became Emperor he again proved to be an excellent civil administrator. One of his greatest achievements was his supervision of the revision and collection of French law into codes. The new law codes, seven in number incorporated some of the freedoms gained by the people of France during the French revolution. These, including religious toleration and the abolition of serfdom. Napoleon also centralized France’s government by appointing prefects to administer regions called departments, into which France was divided.

While Napoleon believed in government “for” the people, he rejected government “by” the people. His France was a police state with a vast network of secret police and spies. The police shut down plays containing any hint of disagreement or criticism of the government. The press was controlled by the state. It was impossible to express an opinion without Napoleon’s approval.

Napoleon’s own opinion of his career is best stated in the following quotation:
“I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this. I purified the Revolution.”

Between 1799 and 1815 the fate of France and Europe was in the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte, the man described by Chateaubriand as the “mightiest breath of life which ever animated human clay’. Napoleon’s ultimate downfall was due to the forces that the Revolution had unleashed and Napoleon accelerated.

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on the island of Corsican who first became an officer of artillery, an unfashionable branch of the army at the time. He did however was able to make the right connections. During the Terror, his friendship with Robespierre’s brother, and his skilful use of artillery at Toulon in September 1793 helped him rise to the rank of brigadier. His cool head during the Vend miaire revolt and his friendship with Barras carried him even further. His marriage to Barras’ ex-mistress, Josephine de Beauharnais in October 1796 put him into the center of fashionable circles. This made it all the more accessible to literally network his way into the French nobility that got him the command of the 30,000 men of the Army of Italy.

Napoleon was very image conscious and had a great flair for publicity much like General Douglas McAuthur did during the Second World War. His published battle reports and his ordres de jour’ attracted popular attention. He once said that “moral force wins more victories than mere numbers.” He also was an excellent actor who could at strategic times appeal to the deepest loyalties’s of his soldiers: “The military are a free masonry and I am their grand master’. “

After the failed Russian invasion the fortunes of Napoleon turned sour. Mainly because of his reluctance to grasp the dimensions of the high casualty rates had on the moral of his army and the French populace growing tired of war which continued to drain the economy. This, while other nations were becoming more fearful of his military threats. Sure, Napoleon was extremely lucky but by 1812 his luck was running out. Due to the inadequacies of his planning in the Russian campaign where over 3/4 of his army perished and the collapse of the treaties that were signed earlier enabled his enemies to regain a counter offensive to once and for all stop Napoleon from achieving complete dominance in all of Europe.

By 1814 after reclaiming power the forces that would ultimately crush Napoleon were already gathering. On the battlefields of Waterloo the great destiny fell. All that Napoleon gained was lost in the heat of the battle of Waterloo. Nowhere in the annals of history has an empire built by one man came crashing down so swiftly and decisively. Who knows what the world would be like today if Napoleon had actually won one of history’s most influential battles.

Even if you think the French leader as more of a despot in the long line of kings in Paris who ruled France, then, who established his family on the seats of European thrones, he actually was different. Even if Bonaparte did not champion all of the ideals of the French revolution. He was still a man of honor. Napoleon was a warrior, but also a man of ideals and law. He believed in the ideals of the French revolution, at least to some degree.

When Napoleon landed on the shores of France after his first exile, the soldiers sent to arrest him openly weep. When Napoleon ripped open his shirt and said either shoot me now or accept me as your general exemplifies the mystic that Napoleon had not only with the military but with most of the French population. This is why many people silently route for him. If Napoleon had defeated Wellington there would have been no world wars in the 20th century. Many historians conclude that fact today. History is what it is though. Napoleon will be forever linked to one of histories greatest military commanders and empire builders.

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Internet Banking: Relevance in a Changing World

Surprising, but true – Internet-based activity is not the preserve of the young “digital native” generation alone. A 2008 survey says that Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1976) uses Internet banking significantly more than any other demographic segment, with two thirds of Internet users in this age group banking online.

Gen X users have also professed their preference for applications such as Facebook, to share, connect and be part of a larger community.

This is some irony in this, since online banking, as we know it today, offers minimal interactivity. Unlike in a branch, where the comfort of two way interaction facilitates the consummation of a variety of transactions, the one way street of e-banking has only managed to enable the more routine tasks, such as balance enquiry or funds transfer.

It’s not hard to put two and two together. A clear opportunity exists for banks that can transform today’s passive Internet banking offering into one that provides a more widespread and interactive customer experience.

It is therefore imperative that banks transform their online offering, such that it matches the new expectations of customers. Moreover, Internet banking must journey to popular online customer hangouts, rather than wait for customers to come to it.

There are clear indications that the shift towards a “next generation” online banking environment has already been set in motion. It is only a matter of time before these trends become the norm.

Leveraging of Social Networks

Forward thinking banks are leveraging existing social networks on external sites to increase their visibility among interested groups. They are also deploying social software technology on their own sites to engage the same communities in two way discussions. Thus, their Internet banking has assumed a more pervasive persona – customers are engaging with the bank, along with its products and services even when they’re not actually transacting online.

Heightened visibility apart, banks can gain tremendous customer insight from such unstructured, informal interactions. For example, a discussion on the uncertain financial future among a group of 18 to 25 year olds could be a signal to banks to offer long term investment products to a segment that was previously not considered a target. Going one step further, a positive buzz around a newly launched service can create valuable word-of-mouth advertising for the business.

Collaborating through Web 2.0

The collaborative aspect of Web 2.0 applications has enabled banks to draw customers inside their fold more than ever before. Traditional methods such as focus group discussions or market research suffer from the disadvantages of high cost, limited scope and potential to introduce bias. Feedback forms merely serve as a post-mortem. In contrast, Web 2.0 has the ability to carry a vast audience along right from the start, and continue to do so perpetually. Thus, an interested community of prospects and customers participate in co-creating products and services which can fulfil their expectations.

The pervasiveness of Web 2.0 enables delivery of e-banking across multiple online locations and web-based gadgets such as Yahoo!Widgets, Windows Live or the iPhone. This means next generation online banking customers will enjoy heightened access and convenience

A New York based firm of analysts found that 15% of the 70 banks tracked by them had adopted Web 2.0, a number of them having done so within the last 12 months.

Standard Chartered Bank employees connect with their colleagues through Facebook and use the platform to share knowledge, clarify questions and participate in discussions on ongoing company activities.

Bank of America, Wachovia Bank and Commonwealth Credit Union have built a presence within interactive media to create awareness and keep up a dialogue with interested communities. They have employed a variety of methods, ranging from creating YouTube communities to launching campaigns on Current TV, a channel in which viewers determine content.

Personalisation of Online Banking

Vanilla e-banking divides customers into very large, heterogeneous groups – typically, corporate, retail or SME, with one type of Internet banking page for each. That’s in sharp contradiction to how banking organisations would like to view their clientele. Banks are moving towards customer-specificity, almost viewing each client as a “segment of one”, across other channels, and online banking is set to follow suit. For instance, a specific home page for home loan customers and another for private banking clients could well be a possibility in future.

Interestingly, National Bank of Kuwait had the foresight to do this several years ago – they enabled customers to determine which products they would view and access, and were rewarded with a dramatic increase in online transactions.

Money Monitor from Yes Bank allows customers to choose their landing page – for example, they can set “all transactions”, “net worth” or “portfolio” as their default view. Other features include the ability to categorise transactions as per customers’ convenience and the printing of custom reports.

Empowerment Online

Beyond doubt, Internet banking has created a more informed, empowered class of customers. This is set to climb to the next level once customers are allowed to proactively participate in many more transaction-related processes. The Internet has already made it possible for customers to compare product loan offerings, simulate financial scenarios and design custom retirement portfolios. Going forward, they would be able to consummate related transactions – which means, after comparing interest rates, they could originate a loan online, and once secured, they can begin to repay it online as well.

Portalisation

The emergence of Web 2.0 technology coupled with banks’ desire to personalise their e-banking to the highest degree is likely to result in “portalisation” of Internet banking. The idea of banking customers being able to create their own spaces online, filled with all that is relevant to them, is not that far-fetched. Customers can personalise their Internet banking page to reflect the positions of multiple accounts across different banks; they could include their credit card information, subscribe to their favourite financial news, consolidate their physical assets position, share their experiences with a group and do more – all from one “place”.

Money Monitor enables customers to add multiple “accounts” (from a choice of 9,000) to their page. Accounts could be savings or loan accounts with major Indian banks, or those with utilities providers, credit card companies, brokerage firms and even frequent flyer programs. Users can customise their pages as described earlier.

As banks seek to develop their Internet banking vision for the future, in parallel, they will also need to address the key issues of security and “due defence”. While it is every marketer’s dream to have customers work as ambassadors, adequate precaution must be taken to prevent the proliferation of malicious or spurious publicity. Therefore, before an individual is allowed to participate in a networking forum, he or she must have built up a favorable track record with the bank. The individual must be a recognized customer of the bank, having used a minimum number of products over a reasonable length of time. Qualitative information about the person’s interaction with the bank’s support staff (for example frequency and type of calls made to their call centre, outcome of such interaction and so on) may be invaluable in profiling the “right” type of customer who can be recruited as a possible advocate.

Collaborative Web 2.0 applications may necessitate opening up banks’ websites to outside technology and information exchange with third party sites, raising the spectre of data and infrastructure security. A robust mechanism of checks and balances must be built to ensure that the third party sites are secure, appropriately certified and pose no threat to the home banks’ sites. Likewise, before a third party widget is allowed to be brought on to a site, it must have passed through stringent security control.

Due diligence must be exercised before permitting users to place a link to another site to guard against the possibility of inadvertent download of malicious software, which could, in the worst case, even result in phishing originating from the banks’ sites.

It is equally important for a bank to guard its customers against invasion of privacy, data theft or misuse. The concept of portalisation envisages deploying technology to bring information from other banks’ or financial service providers’ websites into the home bank’s site. The home bank must ensure that its customers’ personal or transaction related information, which may be shared with the other providers, is not susceptible to leakage or outright misuse.

Banks will do well to partner with an Internet banking solution provider which has not only the expertise to translate their vision into a cutting edge e-banking experience for the user, but also the foresight to define boundaries for safety. With security concerns adequately addressed, next generation Internet banking is full of exciting possibilities. Banks that seize the opportunity may find that Internet banking can become a means of differentiating themselves from competitors, rather than a mere cost cutting tool. Clearly, providing a more powerful and interactive e-banking experience, is the way forward.

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