Title: Policy manager, eStrategies division, American Bankers Association, Washington, DC
Mission: A decorated U.S. Army Reserve veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Rhodes now must marshal the ABA's efforts to create authentication standards for electronic commerce. His primary responsibility is to manage the 20-member board, not all of them bankers, who oversee the association's digital signature and digital certificate authority program, TrustID. He also directs the ABA's work with Digital Signature Trust, the offshoot of Zions Bancorporation, based in Salt Lake City.
Identification: The idea is to create a way for banks to act as guarantors of their customers' identity when doing business online, allowing their electronic "signatures" to be just as reliable as handwritten signatures. "This is, of course, an emerging technology," Rhodes says. "But we think that banks can retain their traditional role of trusted third parties in Internet commerce."
Issues: Others in the market are developing similar products, but Rhodes believes firmly that the various systems should be able to work together. "It's comparable to the credit card world," he says. "The goal is interoperability." But technology isn't the only challenge. As eStrategies policy manager, Rhodes has to tackle a host of management issues, including liability, procedures, auditing and administration of the certificate authority.
Acceptance: The law may have changed to allow e-signatures, but attitudes haven't. Until financial institutions, businesses and consumers trust the authenticity of a digital John Hancock, e-commerce can't truly take off. The industry also needs to apply e-signatures to paper-intensive financial services that consumers really want, such as student loans and mortgages, Rhodes suggests. "There's great technology out there, but you've got to have the killer app," he says. "Someone has to say, 'We're doing this because it's good for our business.'"
Experience: Rhodes, 51, has divided his career between military and financial institutions. After serving in the Army near the end of the Vietnam War (but in the United States), he spent five years at the Federal Home Loan Bank in Little Rock, AR. He moved to Louisiana's Hibernia National Bank, then wound up running the Shell Oil credit union, which he turned from an $8 million- asset "Mom and Pop" into a $48 million-asset full-service shop. He spent 18 months on active duty in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the Gulf War. When he returned, he became vice president of the electronic banking division of ICBA Bancard, a subsidiary of the Independent Community Bankers of America.