Elizabeth Buse helped contribute to Visa's expansion of debit in the U.S. this past decade, ushering in the era of the "small-ticket transaction" (purchases of $25 or less). Now, in a new position she assumed April 1, group executive for international business, she tackles the challenge of growing debit in the emerging markets she oversees.

In some ways, those markets are much like debit here more than a decade ago. "Debit is every bit as relevant to people in Asia, Central Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, as it was to people in the U.S.," says Buse, 49.

Buse's work takes her around the globe-already the equivalent of 25 times this year. Each month she typically works about 10 days in her base of Singapore, plus a week in London; the rest of the time she jets among her 29 markets.

Her international travel once included a fellowship on structural linguistics in Spain in the 1980s. "I was in Madrid thinking I was going to be a Spanish professor," she says.

In a twist of fate there, she met her future husband, an American with a teaching job in the states. She went back to her native California, working as a corporate fundraiser for UCLA, when she decided to pursue a career working instead for those who give the money away. She had a stint at First Data before joining Visa in 1998.

Her secret to success: "I have hired, identified, developed, and most importantly, protected and nurturedgood people," she says.

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