With a recession and regulatory changes at home, Diane Offereins, Discover Financial Services' head of payments, looked overseas for opportunity.

Under her leadership, Discover expanded in China, Japan and Korea-which resulted in network transactions increasing 5 percent last year, to 4.4 billion, and pretax income for her unit rising 32 percent, to $107 million.

Offereinswent the partnership route, teaming up with BC Card, the largest payment network in Korea, in addition to JCB of Japan and China UnionPay. Discover's 2008 acquisition of Diners Club International with its footprint in 125 countries aided this expansion.

Besides the international growth,Offereins expanded the company's domestic reach, through its Pulse electronic funds transfer network.

An impressive 97 percent of the merchants Discover pitched have agreed to accept the card, due largely to an aggressive campaign of personal meetings. A half-million of these meetings are scheduled with merchants this year.

"We focus on growing globally, but our Pulse business is having its best year ever," Offereins says. "You can't take your eye off the ball. While we've focused on Diners and the fact it's new, we've grown our Pulse volume and the shift to debit."

Between the recession and the passage of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, the last couple of years have been challenging for all card issuers, but Offereins says a "flexible infrastructure" meant that Discover didn't have to hunker down.

"The good news for us is that we have lots more opportunities internationally," she says.

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