All posts by Louise May

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Online Safety Tips

Online Safety Tips

We’ve all heard the best tips for staying safe online . While strong passwords , antivirus software and firewalls are a good start , here are 3 not so common tips that will help protect you and your data online.

Enable Two-Step Authentication where available

Also known as multi- or two-factor authentication or login approval – two-step verification provides an extra layer of security beyond your username and password to protect against account hijacking. When using this security mechanism, you will log in using your password and then be prompted verify your identity again. This second verification is usually done by receiving a security code to your mobile device.

Many websites and companies offer two-step verification, and they make it easy to set up this second layer – usually found in the settings section of your account. Using two-step authentication can help you feel more secure, especially for sites containing your financial information.

Check a Site’s SSL Certificate

Whenever you’re shopping online and entering credit card or bank information, it’s important to make sure that website is secured to protect against hackers trying to steal your info. You can find out if a website is secure by checking its SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certification. While this process sounds complicated, it’s actually one of the simplest and quickest things to do for your online security.

When on a website, check the URL. Does it start with “http://” or “https://”? If you notice an s at the end, that means your connection is encrypted and secure, so any data you enter is safely sent to the website. Not all sites have SSL certification. While they may be fine to browse, avoid sharing any financial or personal information on websites without this added layer of security.

Don’t Save Financial Information on Shopping Sites

Even sites with SSL certification can be hacked. While there may not be a way yet to completely safeguard your data from hackers if you shop online, you can secure your financial information better by removing it altogether from shopping sites.

Many shopping sites let you save your credit card information in your online account. This setup makes it easier to make purchases in the future, as your billing and shipping addresses and credit card information are stored. However, if you can access this information, so can hackers. Rather than store your credit cards and addresses in your accounts, spend the extra minute to enter your information each time you make a purchase.

Jack Slawik, IT Systems Manager

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An Echo from the Past

Last Saturday, the Globe and Mail ran an article about large American firms lobbying the US government to discourage the new Canadian government from keeping its election promise to raise income from internet service providers who earn income from their users in Canada.  (U.S. business groups claim Ottawa’s digital tax plan could imperil USMCA, ask White House to intervene, Nov. 16)

It took me back to to the 1970s and 80s when a phenomena called Trans Border Data Flow (TBDF) was a bit of a hot potato. Data processing service bureaux were thriving at that time, at least in terms of investment. Datacrown, Canada Systems Group, Computel and others with backers such as Crown Life, Stelco, Eaton’s and so on. They were boasting how they were going to grow into the lucrative US market. They had an industry association called CADAPSO – Canadian Data Processing Services Organization. I had lead a group of small firms by forming CICS – Canadian Independent Computer Services, in an effort to stop banks from moving into the data processing field. The two groups became rivals. I recall a dinner put on by the Ontario government to which I was invited as were many heads of the large data processors. We each had to introduce ourselves. The head of CADAPSO boasted that his organization represented 90 per cent of the revenues generated by the Data processing industry. I desperately wanted to say that our organization represented 90 per cent of the profits of the industry. As an out of town guest I felt I should mind my manners and passed the opportunity. It wasn’t that long until they had all disappeared and, as it happened, so did all their parent companies.

At the same time the Canadian telephone companies were building cross border communication facilities to make it easier to move data across the border. As described by a friend of mine  “We have built the highways for our conquerors chariots”.

Some Canadians have long been concerned about the high degree of foreign investment in Canada. I had thought the data processing industry, being new and Canadian-owned at that time, should remain an exception to the many industries that were foreign-owned. Some of us tried but failed.  Even when selling Comcheq I turned down an offer from ADP and sold to CIBC on terms that I hoped would see Comcheq remain Canadian-owned. I thought the banks were in the payroll business forever.  How naïve I was!  At the very first opportunity, CIBC sold to a US firm.

The federal government had, some time earlier, passed the Foreign Investment Review Act. Under that act, all larger corporations had to provide their annual Canadian financial statements. With that information it was easy to see the degree of control and even profits of foreign-owned businesses. Even then it was apparent that American-owned companies had higher levels of employment per million dollars of revenue in the US than in Canada. With open borders for movement of data there were many more opportunities to provide head office functions on one side of the border, exactly as the opponents of TBDF had predicted.

Today, US firms dominate the internet.  Not only do they want all the resulting jobs, they want the revenue they generate in foreign countries to be free of any taxes imposed by  those countries. Local companies such as Telpay generate employment, pay taxes on their profits and collect taxes on their sales and, for my part, I am happy to do so. To paraphrase Mae West, “I have not had to pay taxes and I have had to pay taxes. Paying taxes is better.” These US companies want none of that. They want a free ride in Canada.  Any bets on whether they will get it? 

Today’s mantra is cloud processing.  Probably 90 per cent or more of Canadian cloud processing is done in the U.S.  Where we go from there is anyone’s guess. Those of us who believe that sovereignty matters, have lost a lot of battles.  Have we also lost the war?

“On Innovation” is a corporate blog by W. H. (Bill) Loewen, founder, Comcheq Payroll Services and Telpay Bill Payment Services, exploring the impact of current innovations in the financial services industry and reflections from his past 50 years of business experience.  In his spare time, Bill likes to spend time with family and friends, play bridge, dabble with woodworking and is a passionate classical music lover.

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The Garbage Collector

In the early days of the computer era, there were lots of predictions about where these new devices would lead us.  Many are memorable because they were wrong.  Someone wrote a book titled “The End of Work”.   For some of us that don’t seem to have worked.

Comcheq drew predictions from others in the computer services businesses.  There was no way Comcheq was supposed to be able to survive with the banks as its competitor.   We were viewed as the garbage collectors of the computer industry because we provided a service no one else wanted to.  But survive we did and eventually thrived because the banks who provided other types of services disappeared long before Comcheq was sold to CIBC.

A big part of the secret to success is to do what no one else wants to do.  It turned out that even the banks found out that they didn’t want to do payrolls and for a couple of reasons: it interfered with their processing of their banking information and it took too much of their programming resources to maintain their system

A second key factor is to know what you are doing.  Having first-hand experience in the whole cycle of the payroll operation, week by week, year by year, was instrumental.  I wasn’t guessing at what customers needed.  A third component necessary for success is the willingness to learn.  I also learned to listen to the customer when I lost one of our first customers for not doing so.  There were endless variations in customer’s needs that could be satisfied once you had the data needed to do it.

I spent a lot of time listening to customers and to employees that had listened to customers.  I developed a rule that if I heard a request once, I would make a note.  If I heard it twice, I looked for a solution.

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The Beginning

In 1968, I received a brochure proposing that I take on the franchise for a service that provided a group of accounting systems. What I found interesting about the offer was that it included all the usual accounting reports except payroll. That was the very application I was looking for but I never could find an offering that made me want to buy the service.

I could easily imagine reasons why others wouldn’t want to jump into providing that service. The computer programs were complicated. The processing was a bit cumbersome because of the need to produce separate cheque forms for each customer. There were fairly efficient manual systems that were widely used. But still, it seemed like an attractive application for computers because the entry of a small amount of data-enabled production of significant output, the ideal combination for computer applications.

I mulled this question over  for a few days when suddenly an idea struck. What if you produced a system that drew all the payments on the same bank account? A whole list of added benefits would follow. Computer operations would be simplified and significantly speeded up. Cost of forms would be reduced. Separate forms would not have to be stored.  Bank charges would be eliminated if you allied with a bank or trust company for handling the funds and clearing the cheques. Cheques did not have to be individually signed.  Individual bank reconciliations would be eliminated. The interest earned on the float required to be in place until cheques cleared provided unseen revenue to cover some of our added costs. When you added it all up, the combination certainly looked like a winner.

A Simple Idea Becomes Comcheq

That simple idea was what made Comcheq the success it became. Though I knew the ins-and-outs of payroll production, I had a lot to learn about computer programming. But once learned, it became a huge benefit. Not long after I started Comcheq, the banks became my competitors. That was scary but I knew more about payroll than they did. In fact, I knew very little about computers but a fair bit about payroll and payment systems.  It was easier for me to learn computer skills than for bankers to learn the intricacies of payroll.  In 1968, Comcheq processed its first live payroll that integrated the payroll and payment functions.

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Telpay Payment News
Bringing You Payment Insights, Trends and Best Practices

On Innovation

by W.H. (Bill) Loewen

We are regularly reminded of the importance of innovation. Governments often spend large sums encouraging innovation and on so-called centres of innovation. In some cases, it is necessary to add fuel, but that may not be the source of true innovation. It is more a case of solving a known problem than inventing something that did not previously exist.

Probably the most important innovation ever has turned out to be the telephone. It’s invention by Alexander Graham Bell was the direct result of the fact that both his mother and wife were deaf.  He was interested in discovering how the ear worked.  Once he could see that, he determined that he was able to translate that process into building a replica. And that became the telephone.

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