Whether it’s a keynote session on industry trends or facilitating a breakout or online learning session, Cornerstone Advisors brings straight-from-the-front-line knowledge and energetic audience engagement. With several proven topics from hundreds of recent speeches and client engagements, we also collaborate to develop customized content to fit event needs and key themes. We regularly present “The Future of….” and “The GonzoBanker’s Guide to…” on just about every industry topic.

Our public speakers are professionally trained, but not full-time speakers. They are active senior consultants working with financial institutions daily. They bring real-world examples enthusiastically which lead to key audience takeaways. And, we are serious without taking ourselves too seriously.

Participants should come prepared to evaluate real business scenarios and solve tough strategic challenges. And whether it’s a supporting reference deck, dedicated white paper or custom research initiative, our session materials are designed to provide ongoing value.

A sampling of our most recent proven topics:

Strategy and Industry Trends
High Performance
Mergers & Acquisitions
Contract Negotiations
Vendor Management
Delivery Channels
Risk Management

Technology & Operations


Trends from the Insight Vault

Cut through the noise and get smart on emerging industry issues with this fast-paced tour through the marketplace. Explore succinct research and analysis from Cornerstone experts and get to the “So What” of why some business and tech trends matter more than others. Take away usable insights, humorous food-for-thought, and reality checks from the front line of banking.


The New Earnings Model 

The ways to create value at banks is changing. As the competitive and industry landscape changes, explore where the breakage is in the banking business model.  Understand typical fixes to the breakage across key lines of business like commercial, retail, lending, and wealth management. Discuss how it all fits together strategically and walk away with the new metrics and a new dashboard for thriving in the New Earnings Model.


Pardon the Interruption: The Bank of the Future

This fast-paced and candid session explores various components of what the bank of the future will look like, including: branch of the future, the impact of mobile payments, and the impact of fintech on the banking industry.


The Impact of Fintech on Community Banks: Moneymaker or Dealbreaker?

With regulations, rapidly changing technology and new players in the industry, what should community banks do to defend their positions and thrive in the new world of banking? Examine Cornerstone’s no-nonsense framework to addressing these broad issues affecting banking’s rapidly changing business model.


Platformification as a New Business Model

There’s a perfect storm blowing in financial services that will fundamentally change the industry’s business model, like Amazon changed retail’s business model. Platformification, where both existing banks and startups begin a strategic shift towards becoming banking platforms, is on the horizon due to the erosion of the traditional banking business model, consumer demand for a wider range of personal tools and services and technological advancements.  This plug-and-play business model allows multiple participants (producers and consumers) to connect to it and interact with each other to create and exchange value.

In this whirlwind session, expect the unexpected in terms of debate and dynamic discussion around the importance of platformification, what it takes to be a successful platform, as well as how the evolution of platformification will unfold in financial services and what that means for your organization.


Results-Based Strategic Planning: Seven Secrets of Value-Creation

Explore what it takes to create a best practice strategic vision. Learn best practices from financial institutions who got past the fuzzy stuff and mastered results-based execution in their strategic planning initiatives.


Strategic Planning is Broken

Looking out on an industry of increasing “sameness,” strategy for many financial institutions is broken. Get beyond objectives to tackle vision, business model, brand, and positioning.   Learn how to look beyond the annual economic forecast and SWOT analysis, dig deeper and get to the “why” and “how” of strategy. Walk away with  fundamental concepts to guide strategic development based on competitive strengths.


Strategy in the Next Era of Banking

As banks navigate the increasingly rapid changes in customer preferences coupled with competition from new and disruptive players, effective strategic planning is more essential than ever. Explore how banks must think about strategic planning in this new era and the keys to execution success.


Strategic Measures Every Manager Should Know

Beyond financial ratios, explore a broad and useful set of important measures in the areas of growth, profitability, efficiency, risk, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. These measures will address performance and leading indicators of potential future strength. Some industry best practices to improve certain ratios will be covered as well as the assembly of a working scorecard.


Growing in a Hyper-Competitive Environment

Community financial institutions have transitioned from dealing primarily with economic and regulatory challenges, to facing head-on competitive and delivery resourcing challenges in growing revenue, especially non-interest income.  Explore emerging industry trends impacting revenues and several exclusive industry revenue related comparative benchmarks. Consider innovations for ambitious revenue growth, and discuss several industry best practices in expanding revenue.


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Engineering Over Energy

While financial institutions have historically pursued leadership through the energy of their lenders and managers, client expectations driven by competitors and new market entrants now demand a more sustainable engineered approach. This session will cover both Cornerstone Advisors industry research and experiences from the trenches of our nationwide consulting work including engineering for revenue and competitive delivery,  sizing and overcoming the addressable compliance burden, addressing the pervasiveness of tech outside of I.T., improving responsiveness, and best practices of top performers.


Efficient Instead of Busy

Operational excellence drives customer satisfaction, closes the competitive cost gap and strengthens an institution’s foundation for growth. Community financial institutions can drive their businesses forward to make it easier for customers to do business and enable teams to spend more time serving, uncovering new business and less time with back-office bottlenecks. Learn about standardizing and simplifying systems, automating processes and leveraging scale across the enterprise, optimizing capacity, and applying lean operational principles.


Benchmarking and Best Practices in Improving Retail Banking Performance

As delivery of retail products and services rapidly evolves to new channels, banks must evolve the metrics used to evaluate performance as well. Examine which traditional performance metrics still have high importance while also examining new metrics that will be used to measure success in new channels.


Hitting Revenue Growth Out of the Park

Finding new sources of revenue is strategically important to financial institutions. The confluence of margin compression, downward pressure on debit interchange and overdraft income are forcing a re-think. While broad options seem clear – expansion through mergers and organic growth through product launches, customer acquisition initiatives, cross-sell and retention/recapture efforts – results lie in execution details.  Learn approaches to successfully grow revenue using each approach.


Getting Results From Improved Customer Experience and Engagement

Without proper focus, high customer satisfaction may not translate into growth, performance and customer share of wallet. In this session, financial institutions will learn how to improve responsiveness, training, competitiveness and other engagement efforts to exceed both customer and performance expectations. We will also share best practices and concepts that are fundamental to changing how financial institutions work.


A Guided Tour of the Best Practice Bank

While the concept of “best practices” is widely used in banking today, many struggle translating the idea into concrete goals and action plans.  Explore a sampling of the best practices Cornerstone has observed in working with hundreds of financial institutions over the past decade. Also covered is a methodology for developing a scorecard, finding and using industry peer data, and characteristics of high performers.


Leveraging Benchmarking: Improving Performance by Developing a Metric Based Culture

Discuss the importance of benchmarks in managing performance and resource allocations. Learn the Laws of High Performance and the importance of their implementation in order to be successful in the future. Peer benchmarking data from around the country will be shared.


Best Practices in Performance Improvement

Regardless of the environment, there is one constant: Financial institutions can count on being expected to be more efficient, automated, faster, and more nimble. Explore  industry best practices in benchmarking and performance improvement, with particular focus concentration for best results, when to use peer vs. internal benchmarks, differentiating between cost reduction and growth enabling changes, and how to tie initiatives back to key strategic goals.


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Merger & Acquisition Value Done Right

Successful mergers and acquisitions involve making and keeping promises to key stakeholders. Based on direct experiences of managing mergers with dozens of financial institutions, explore the merger and acquisition life cycle where value can be added to make promises kept. Learn best practices in assessing and valuing candidates, benchmarking and staffing, leading with roadmaps and planning conversions, optimizing contracts, and integrating businesses. Walk away with a merger framework of key activities to achieve merger value.


Mergers:  Making the Technology Work

From core processing to mobile and payments offerings, integrating two disparate systems into one robust operating environment requires a frank assessment of where the business is today and the direction a combined entity might pursue.  Explore what to consider and how to make the best judgement calls. Walk away with industry best practices on executing a merger.


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Drawing Back the Curtain on Vendor Pricing Secrets:  How to Adapt in Contract Negotiations

Discover pricing secrets found in the bank vendor market which is opaque. Examine market spending on technology and payments based on study findings from 60+ financial institutions and reviews of thousands of provider contracts. Understand leverage and how to use it in contract negotiations. Walk away with contract negotiation tips & best practices in vendor management.


Building a Contract Negotiation Roadmap for Your Bank That Saves Money and Improves Results

Learn how to think of third party technology agreements at a strategic level. Sharing experiences across hundreds of contract negotiations, discover when to approach your vendor and how to value unsolicited offers. Understand typical lengths of different types of third party technology agreements and what types of contracts should be aligned vs. not and when in negotiations with industry providers.


Tips in Selecting & Negotiating Different Types of Vendors: Save Money and Get Better Results

Discuss approaches to prepare for an upcoming termination date for one of your key third party technology agreements. Learn techniques for deciding whether to issue a full Request for Proposal (RFP) or sticking with current solutions. And, find out how to get the best price and still get the functionality needed to compete in today’s market


Fund Innovation Through Aggressive Contract Negotiations  

Drive new efficiencies from mature initiatives and fund innovative new products and programs. Explore an all-star playbook with a skilled offense to boost the bottom line or re-direct into innovation. Learn from an expert who negotiates over 200 provider contracts annually on behalf of banks. Learn where the opportunities are and how leaders are pursuing improvements.


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Vendor Performance Management: The New Mandate

Vendor management scrutiny from regulators and auditors continues to rise, and Boards are increasingly asking hard questions about solution providers. Beyond vendor risk, Boards and executive teams expect answers to

questions about the costs and benefits. Learn how to build a vendor performance management program that satisfies examiners need for vendor risk management as well as driving ROI with vendor spend. Experiences and research provided will be directly from Cornerstone Advisors’ nationwide consulting practice of hundreds of financial institutions. Walk away with results from a spending study of over 60 banks, approaches to evaluation, governance, measurement, and reporting.


Leading Vendor Management to Fund Innovation

Financial institutions are faced with the dual task of controlling expenses while at the same time investing in new, innovative offerings. This is requiring a new approach to vendor management that focuses on resource allocation that moves spending from mature and commoditized services to required new ones that can help re-invent customer delivery, support and payments. In this session, we will discuss vendor management strategies that will help financial institutions accomplish this shift.


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Engineering Over Energy

While financial institutions have historically pursued leadership through the energy of their lenders, client expectations driven by competitors and new market entrants now demand a more sustainable engineered approach. This session will cover both Cornerstone Advisors industry research and experiences from the trenches of our nationwide consulting work including engineering for revenue and competitive delivery,  sizing and overcoming the addressable compliance burden, addressing the pervasiveness of tech outside of I.T., improving loan turnaround time, and best practices of top performers.


Business Services: Deploying or Expanding the Right Way

While many financial institutions have ventured into business services and business lending over the past decade, industry focus has often centered on larger commercial real estate transactions and not as much on small business relationships. Learn the new playbook for developing services for small business customers and growing these relationships. Included is a discussion of product offerings, pricing strategies, delivery channels and internal staffing requirements to make business services a strong contributor.


Making Mortgage a Relationship Product

Healthy community institutions face an incredible strategic opportunity to gain market share in the mortgage business. Learn how to acquire and deepen retail banking relationships using mortgage as an anchor product. This session will present emerging best practices for integrating the mortgage business into the organization’s overall retail relationship banking strategy including marketing, originator accountability, and retail-mortgage strategies.


CRM Best Practices in Lending

Client Relationship Management (CRM) systems have become one of the most effective methods of tracking interactions between financial institutions and their customers. CRM can help to maximize sales and profit using analytics and key performance indicators that optimize your marketing and customer service strategies. Understand the strategic perspective on the implementation of CRM systems, complete with best practices and pitfalls as well as suggested performance metrics.


Lending & Technology

Despite years of talk about automated “lender workbenches,” the commercial lending process is still very fragmented, paper-intensive and poorly leveraged.  It’s time for lenders to get serious about reinventing heir shops with new technology. This discussion focuses on how technology has changed the lending function, particularly in the commercial lending area. New technologies, the players and best practices are discussed, and in-depth guidance is provided for financial institutions attempting to prioritize and justify these investments. Scorecards are introduced that enable an institution to judge how effectively its technology is working.


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Managing Payments as a Line of Business

Examines how much payments revenue contributes to bottom lines and discusses how managers can analyze and treat the payments area as a line of business even if it is not one on the organizational chart.


The Payments Revenue Playbook

The payments landscape is changing rapidly with many new players and disruptors entering the industry. Focus on how to create a playbook to lead to continued payments revenue and relationship growth in the future.


Building a Payments Scorecard

Explore  specific income, expense, adoption and usage drivers that should be measured and incorporated into a monthly payments scorecard. Take away a sample payments scorecard and industry best practices.


Using the Payments Scorecard to Increase Profitability

The changing payments landscape is requiring financial institution executives to manage both their payments revenues and expenses in a more disciplined fashion. Learn how to profitably manage today’s payment streams to free up investment dollars and begin planning for the next generation of payments offerings.


The Payments Landscape in 2020

Examine several trends – customer behavior, new payments entrants, and merchant strategies – how they affect current payments revenue/volume, and what financial institutions can do to prepare for the changes.


Organizing To Manage Payments

Examine key organizational strategies to manage payments. What skills/knowledge will be required? What manager position(s) need to be created? Where would key functions report? This could include a responsibility matrix and suggested org charts.


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The New Branch Imperative

With growing revenue, customer experience, and efficiency top-of-mind and teller transaction volumes are in perpetual decline, re-think and address the branch performance challenge now.  Examine ways to assess branch performance, develop strategies, and make the tough choices necessary to improve branch network performance. Included will be a discussion of branch strategy, enhancing workflows, reducing paper, applications integration, and the new branch scorecard.


Getting a Grip on Delivery Channel Integration

With efficiency pressures and shifts in consumer behavior, financial institutions are increasing their focus on innovation and customer experience in their delivery channels. Best practice institutions are seeking ways to optimize their investments in delivery channels while creating a more integrated customer experience that is supported by advanced technological and marketing capabilities. Discuss ways in which a financial institution can develop an integrated delivery channel plan that benchmarks and analyzes the organization’s delivery channel capabilities and identifies strategic opportunities as well as gaps in current performance.


Return on Channel:  Convergence and Funding Innovation

Understand the right mix of channels to provide value to customers while increasing revenue and how do to align internal resources. This session has been designed to provide valuable takeaways for CEO’s and CFO’s as well as CIO’s and will explore the potential mix of future channels as well as the concept of casting off channels which no longer make economic sense for the financial institution. We will also discuss how the money saved from this rationalization should be utilized to address delivery capabilities which may be lacking, or others which promise higher returns in the future as institutions re-think their channel strategies.


Delivery Redirect: Mapping The Business to Changing Customer Behavior

Many financial institutions have business processes, organizational structures and financial reporting methods that are based on branches as the primary channel. Yet, as interactions have shifted, branches have become the alternative channel for most.   Explore Cornerstone Advisors’ concept of “delivery redirect,” which helps financial institutions evolve and thrive during the change.


Modern Financial Marketing:  Essential Survival Skills

Examine the ways in which marketers struggle to prove value internally and how to eliminate marketing friction by aligning with objectives, priorities and concerns of other constituents. Walk away with leadership skills for the digital era,  how to effectively engage CEOs & CFOs, and how to shift marketing from fuzzy cost center to accountable revenue center including a sample new marketing/delivery scorecard.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Reality Check

Learn the drivers of the industry’s most recent interest in CRM. Explore a strategic execution framework that sets the stage and keeps CRM expectations and execution in check.   Learn about the business model impact, key enabling systems, customer experience and process improvement drivers.Understand the key system components and how to lead those capabilities. And, walk away with the 6 Key Pitfalls of CRM and opportunities to overcome them.


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Practical Risk Management for Financial Institutions

High performing financial institutions are those that have embraced and learned to effectively manage risk. In this informative session, participants will discuss the key risk issues facing financial institutions today and learn practical, effective methods for establishing a successful enterprise risk management program, including approaches to assessing and managing risk, methods and systems for monitoring and reporting, setting roles and responsibilities, and integrating efficiently into ongoing business existing planning processes.


Managing Risk without Breaking the Bank: A Benchmarking Update

There’s always a new regulation heading our way preparing to kick us where it counts. Move past the “regulations will be burdensome” hand-wringing and explore how banks can more efficiently and effectively absorb new compliance mandates without soaking up all the earnings. We will share insights from our benchmarking research and regulatory studies and findings from our work helping to organize, staff, and create a culture for enterprise risk.


Best Practices in Developing a Mature ERM Model

It is more important than ever for credit unions to apply a consistent level of focus across all enterprise risk categories – and not just the credit, interest rate and liquidity areas that have traditionally received the most attention. In this session, we will explore approaches to assess and enhance the maturity of overall risk management efforts.


Taking the Stress out of Stress Testing

Thriving in the new post-crisis financial institution environment requires the ability to effectively forecast the results of business decisions and current circumstances in an environment of uncertainty. Learn about current methods and systems for forecasting funding needs and stressing the institution’s liquidity, identifying potential areas of credit weakness, estimating loss reserve requirements, assessing payment strength, and  evaluating the adequacy of capital based on possible future outcomes.


Managing Information Security Risks

New technologies have provided both benefits and threats to financial institutions. Regulators require financial institutions to evaluate these risks and deploy a comprehensive information security program. Learn about the key risk information security issues today and understand how to establish an effective information security risk management program, including how to classify systems, identify threats to systems, establish policies, and ensure oversight. Two examples will include implementing a vendor risk management program and business continuity plans.


Managing Credit Risk

Managing credit risk effectively can be the difference between a financial institution surviving or thriving. In this session, for senior management and directors, participants will learn about “best practice” techniques for monitoring and managing credit risk. Participants will learn how to effectively establish the financial institution’s credit risk “appetite”; structure an effective credit risk management organization; develop comprehensive lending policies; control the loan origination process; monitor compliance with policy and regulatory guidelines; monitor the quality of the loan portfolio using stress testing, loan review and other techniques; manage problem credits and workouts; and establish and maintain the allowance for loan and lease losses.


Business Continuity Planning: Ten Steps to an Effective Plan

From earthquakes and hurricanes, to fires and floods, financial institutions have experienced them all. Those that were prepared for them survived, managed the recovery cost effectively and enhanced their reputation with their customers. Learn the  10 critical steps to success. Learn how to organize the planning, execution and business recovery effort, identify and mitigate threats to the financial institution’s operations, provide for appropriate back-up, document and test the disaster response plan and manage the financial institution’s recovery.


Barbarians at the Gate! Preparing for the Next Regulatory Visit

Learn about the  latest regulatory “hot-buttons” and practical methods to prepare for them now. Also, learn best practices for evaluating and preparing for areas of regulatory attention and specific actions bankers can take prior to and between regulatory visits. Walk away with a knowledge of how to maximize the strategic and tactical bottom-line improvement opportunities regulatory visits can create.  Included are practical compliance policy templates and risk assessment tools.


Enterprise Risk Management – The Director’s Role

Learn risk management fundamentals and walk away with increased confidence in the ability to play an effective part in the risk management process. Topics covered include current risk environment, strategic decision-making and its risk implications, determining the financial institution’s risk appetite, establishing risk tolerance guidelines, and keys to evaluating, controlling, and monitoring risk across categories outlined by regulators. We will cover case studies with risk decisions and resulting consequences.


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Innovation & Justifying Practical Technology Investments

As a bank looks to innovate and add new services, they should be justified and aligned with the internal planning process. Assessments of the organization, delivery channels, and related vendors are important to ensure people, process, and technology work together to support the innovations. This session will touch on key industry trends in emerging services including the rapidly growing areas of delivery channels and payments. Insights will be shared on the deployment of services learned from hundreds of bank consulting engagements in strategic planning, performance improvement, system selection, contract negotiation, implementation, and technology assessments


Technology, Delivery and the Community Bank Customer Experience

While the concept of “best practices” is widely used in banking delivery today, community banks can often struggle with translating the idea of best practices into concrete goals and action plans for tech and delivery.  Learn practical guidance will be presented on the interplay between strategic, technology, and delivery planning, how to get a grip on the fast moving marketplace, and how to meet tomorrow’s expectations.


Technology Challenges and Opportunities for Financial Institutions

This discussion covers the future of technology in the financial services industry, strategic industry trends and challenges financial institutions face in implementing new technology.  Learn how to keep up with changing technologies on a budget, separating keep-the-lights-on vs. strategic technology, overcoming tech staffing challenges, managing outsourcing relationships, implementing an effective technology plan, and ensuring financial payback on tech investments.


Top 10 Technology Trends

What technology trends will change banking as we know it today? This presentation will highlight the top 10 emerging technologies for banks that will impact financial institutions and their customers in the next five years.   Learn what best practice community banks are doing and which vendors are gaining traction.


Multi-Channel Integration: Projects and Milestones for Success

Learn about a planning methodology that can be used to prioritize and successfully execute each project on the path to multi-channel integration. Discuss outlines of a pragmatic project “road map” that details realistic milestones and measurable goals for each major delivery channel (mobile, internet, branch, contact center, lending) for the next three-five years.


10 Questions Bankers Should Ask Before Investing in New Technology

Bankers have been told for years that newer technology would give them a “competitive edge” – but is it really true? How can bankers be sure they are asking the right questions when they evaluate any new type of technology for their bank? Learn 10 simple, straightforward questions that will empower any banker to make better informed technology decisions.


Competing with the Mega-Banks through Mobile and Web Channels

Discuss how financial institutions should prioritize and sequence their next generation of mobile and web investments and how they can work to drive better “monetization” of digital delivery.


Keys to Successfully Implementing New Technology in Your Institution

Why is it that the same product solution, sold from the same vendor, has such totally different levels of success in different banks that implement that solution? It is the same product and it is typically installed and supported by the same vendor organization, so why would the results vary so from institution to institution? Examine the pitfalls of implementing new solutions and discuss some characteristics synonymous with those institutions that tend to see a better return on their technology investment.


Justifying Technology Investments in a Non-ROI World

Financial institutions are increasingly being forced to make investments even when the traditional return on investment analysis doesn’t support them. This presentation discusses what types of investments still should require traditional ROI justification. It also outlines ways to focus the organization on how to measure payback when the direct ROI model doesn’t apply.


How to Become a Paperless Bank in 24 Months

Most banks today have invested in document imaging or enterprise content management (ECM) systems. Many have made initial steps into image archive and records management.  Yet, only best practice leaders have been able to transform their operations into workflow-enabled, paperless environments and gain breakout productivity improvements. ECM is hard work organizationally, and its implementation often gets crowded out by other initiatives. Discuss transforming a current image archive environment into streamlined, automated workflows. Walk away knowing how to organize, roll out, and manage enterprise imaging initiatives to gain momentum.


Managing Your Projects So They Don’t Manage You

What stands between a financial institution and its vision of the future are projects – lots of projects. While many experience a project plan once it is approved using project management software and other tools, many don’t have a formal method of managing the front end of the process – project identification, prioritization and resource allocation. Explore project leadership and overall command of project methodology.  Walk away with sample templates and project plan write ups.


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Some of Our Most Requested Expert Speakers

Steve Williams is a founder of Cornerstone Advisors and leads the firm's Strategic Planning practice. Steve's prior experience includes being

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Terence Roche is a founder of Cornerstone Advisors. He specializes in strategic planning, payments, system selections, and human resources. His

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Ron Shevlin leads research at Cornerstone Advisors including the Cornerstone Performance Report and the Insight Vault. Cited often in the

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Sam Kilmer specializes in strategic planning, marketing, and delivery at Cornerstone Advisors.  Sam’s prior experience includes strategy, analytics, digital delivery,

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Brad Smith leads Technology Solutions for Cornerstone Advisors including vendor performance management, technology assessments, systems selections, implementations and conversions. He

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Eric Weikart leads Performance Solutions for Cornerstone Advisors. Eric quarterbacks a team specializing in improving performance, processes, and operating efficiency

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Vincent Hui specializes in strategic planning and leads the Merger & Acquisition and Risk Management practices for Cornerstone Advisors. Vincent’s

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Jim Trautwein specializes in information technology at Cornerstone Advisors. He has helped several financial institutions gain value and performance from

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Tim Daley specializes in channels, mobile, and web banking at Cornerstone Advisors. Tim helps clients navigate shifting channel preferences and

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Ryan Rackley specializes in contract negotiations, payments, mergers, branches, and technology at Cornerstone Advisors. He helps clients reduce vendor costs

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Wes Bjorklund specializes in technology, operations, risk, and process improvement at Cornerstone Advisors. He helps financial institutions better serve customers

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Daryl Jones specializes in consumer lending, mortgage lending, performance and process improvement at Cornerstone Advisors. Daryl helps clients by leading

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