A collection of observations, ruminations, predictions and random thoughts from Cornerstone Advisors.

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December 15, 2014 by Scott Hodgins Scott Hodgins

Brock Thorpe Revisited

Brock ThorpeGreetings, GonzoBankers. This week I’ll introduce the next installment of our wildly popular comic novel, “Brock Thorpe, BadAss CIO.” Brock’s gotten over his omnichannel rage, but a visit from his new vendor rep has tested his patience yet again! Will Brock keep his cool? Will he act professionally despite his rising temperature? Or will Brock be Brock, and take matters to street level? 

There’s only one way to find out. Check it out here

Keeping it light for you as we glide into the holidays, Fans and Detractors alike!

–Hodgins  hodgins


Filed under: ???, Vendor Buzz

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December 8, 2014 by Thomas Borjon Thomas Borjon

Oh, Windows XP, It Seems We Hardly Knew Ye

Yet here we are, months past the April 8, 2014, deadline and you still have a whopping 24% market share.

Why does everyone love you and cling to you when there is much better software out there?

Why has Microsoft forsaken you?

Like most things, there are many reasons for all of these factors. No one simple answer encases all the complications associated with Windows XP migration issues. Let’s dive in headfirst, in Gonzo fashion.


Windows XP was the first truly enterprise grade Windows Desktop Operating System available. The Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) appeared much less often than in any previous desktop version of Windows. For the most part, users no longer have to reboot their entire machine when one application fails while losing work in other applications. Automatic reboots and restarts are occurring much less often, too, with this latest version of Windows – meaning, once again, that users are losing much less work due to unplanned restarts, which correlates directly to increased productivity. For this reason alone, it’s easy to understand why organizations have second thoughts why they wouldn’t want to move. Who would want to risk losing that stability after every previous version we had been through at that point?


The cost of most Windows upgrades is hidden in the price of new machines. Yet many people threw this money away, opting to stay with the older OS, which had the benefit of stability. Since very few organizations will actually upgrade the OS on a particular machine once it is shipped, the money to stay ahead of the upgrade curve and at least upgrade to Windows Vista was thrown away on copies of Windows XP, which would essentially be expiring on April 8, 2014.

The Fly in the Ointment

We all knew this day would come. Microsoft has retired many operating systems previously. With Microsoft’s recent security alert MS14-068, it really hit home. The alert highlights an exploit that is present in every version of Windows and Windows server since Windows 95 (including Windows RT). Guess which Microsoft Desktop OS is not getting patched because it’s 14 years old? Windows XP. Vista is the oldest Microsoft Desktop OS getting this patch. This is a doosy of a patch, too. Unpatched, the attack allows an inside attacker to take control of a Windows server (or any machine in the domain) as the domain administrator.

Since XP is not getting updated with this patch, this is what it means to bankers: It means if an organization has one XP machine, an attacker could exploit this flaw, gain control of the bank’s Windows domain controller and install any software he wants to on it. He could tee-off the bank’s network traffic to a destination of his choice, copying every packet sent to the organization’s domain controller. This, in turn, could have negative effects on the institution’s Internet connection, clogging it with traffic destined for a slum in some Eastern European bloc nation. There, it will be decompiled by a 13-year-old and posted on Reddit and Facebook, along with all the “unauthorized” snaps from the politically correct “Seasonal Winter” party, where people were being, er, less than politically correct.

In Conclusion

Bankers, get those XP machines off the network! If someone told me he was going to give me a 14-year-old computer with which to do my daily work, I’d give that person a look he would not soon forget. So why is it different with software? Why is it acceptable to run a 14-year-old OS that is not even supported anymore?

It’s not.

Upgrade before disaster strikes and those Christmas snaps of Dave and Molly singing “Welcome to the Jungle” make it to Facebook and Twitter.



A Cornerstone Strategic Technology Plan provides your organization with a clear picture of its technology vision, helping you better prioritize technology initiatives, analyze system payback, invest appropriately in new systems, and ensure your employees and support staff are prepared for the company’s emerging technology environment.

Contact us today to learn more.


Filed under: Information Technology, Vendor Buzz

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December 2, 2014 by Daryl Jones Daryl Jones

Apple Pay from the Front Lines


It’s been a good three weeks since the new iPhone 6 arrived in the mail. It was a bittersweet moment as I had regretfully given up my iPhone 4S, primarily out of the geeky obsession that it was rumored to be the last product in which Steve Jobs was able to oversee development from start to finish. True or not, it led me to keep that phone much longer than my Samsung-loving family could bear. In fact, I threatened my wife I was going to keep the phone forever out of sentimental value. In the end, the $200 trade-in value got the better of her rational sensibilities.

As a banker, clearly the first thing I had to do was run out and test Apple Pay. Since getting the new phone I have used it about a dozen times. But as I make my way around to different clients, family and friends, I’m a bit surprised at how few people that moved to the new phone have tried Apple Pay. As such, a lot of people are quite curious as to how it really works and if it is living up to the hype. So here, loyal Gonzo followers, is a brief summary.

1202bThe Setup

First, the Passbook app has to be set up to accept credit/debit cards, which means agreeing to all of the necessary terms and conditions, which are not very different from any other app in the marketplace. In fact, there were fewer “terms and conditions” to accept than what I’m “forced” to do while logging in to a hotel Wi-Fi. Does anyone ever decline those hotel Wi-Fi terms and conditions?

Next, the cards within Passbook need to be set up. The cards can be manually input, but the best way is to simply scan an image of the card. It is super-fast, and from my experience quite reliable. It does have trouble capturing all of the information, though, if there’s not a strong enough contrast between the card itself and the text on the card. Once the scan has taken place, there is some manual input required, but it is quite minimal. For example, I imported four cards and it couldn’t read the expiration date on one of the older cards. Too much wear, I guess, but I’d hate to see how my wife’s card looks. Overall, importing the cards was simple and quick. So quick, in fact, I probably could have done it while waiting in the checkout line to make my first Apple Pay purchase. That’s not an exaggeration.

1202cThe last “setup” item is configuring the fingerprint scan. The process is the same as it was on iPhone 5. I performed a series of scans across the top, bottom, sides and edge of my finger to get a full digital scan of the fingerprint. After the full blood spectrum analysis and confiscation of my first-born child to ensure my identity, I was ready to go. In all seriousness, the phone prompts for a fingerprint scan, and it takes about 60 seconds, max.

The Purchase

Of the five comments I received from clerks at checkout lanes, three said they love how fast it is, one said customers seem to like it so far, and the last one I can’t repeat. But, boy was she funny!

Seriously, the purchase is blazing fast. In most cases, there is no signature needed (more on that later) and the transaction takes about five seconds to process, if that. The mechanics of it are straightforward. The phone is tapped to the terminal, which triggers the fingerprint scan, then, voila, you get a receipt. Two, actually, including a digital one that hits your phone about a second before the cashier hands you a paper receipt! If only gas stations had a payment method so convenient. Yes, it’s a credit card, I hope I entered that zip code correctly; no, I don’t have a loyalty card; no, I don’t want a car wash; and no, I don’t want a receipt!

1202dWhile the Apple Pay purchase is fast, there may be some operational limitations at an individual company level. For example, even with the improved security around these transactions, Whole Foods still requires a physical signature for any transaction above $50, which is quite annoying because anyone who frequents Whole Foods can attest to the fact that sub $50 transactions are rare!

The Close

While there have been some reports of duplicate postings on users’ accounts, these were clearly limited, and early on. After doing a dozen different purchases at various stores (and via mobile app), there is yet to be even one hint of a processing issue, duplicate postings, anything. The real-time transaction alerts on my phone are a nice change, though.

In fact, if this whole process outlined above is simple enough for my almost 60-year-old mother-in-law to do, we seriously shouldn’t be worried about the user experience. What we should be concerned about, though, is my mother-in-law reading this announcement of her age and there being one less GonzoBanker in the world tomorrow.

1202aOne interesting side effect of my three-week experiment is worth noting. The big thing in mobile payments articles over the past couple of years has been the ability to alter consumer behavior, and honestly, I have to admit that this has been one of the biggest surprises. After using my iPhone for less than a month to make about a dozen payments, I’ve actually started to unintentionally reach for my phone instead of my wallet when it’s time to pay for something. Yikes.

If only our “traditional” means of banking were as simple and elegant as Apple Pay! Even with the most well-crafted and best-intended solutions across the bank and credit union spectrum, I’ve never heard friends at a dinner party bragging about their banks’ Internet banking site, or another mobile app being as cool as what we can now do with our iPhone using Apple Pay.


Cards and Payments – from Strategy to Execution

Whether you’re looking to launch a new Credit Card Program, choose a Card Vendor, Negotiate a Contract or Optimize your Payments Strategy, Cornerstone Advisors has the expertise to assist with your cards and payments initiatives.

Contact us today to learn more about the many ways we can help with your competitive strategies.

Cornerstone Advisors


Filed under: Cards & Payments, Information Technology, Retail Banking, Vendor Buzz, Web & Mobile Banking

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