Former BankAmerica Corp. chairman Richard M. Rosenberg, electronic banking pioneer Richard P. Yanak, and the founders of Fair, Isaac & Co. will be given distinguished service awards later this month at the American Bankers Association's bank card conference.
They will join six others who have won the hall-of-fame-like distinction since the ABA began the tradition in 1995.
The association is both honoring lifetime achievements and sending a message about the complexity of the card business and its contribution to the banking industry, said James B. Shanahan, who served as a consultant to the ABA in selecting the recipients.
"One of the things we are trying to do is look at all the components of the business," Mr. Shanahan said.
William R. Fair and Earl J. Isaac, both posthumously, are the second and third nonbankers in what is now a group of 10. Their commercialization of credit scoring, beginning in the late 1950s, was "one of the foundations of a business that has become extremely data-dependent," said Mr. Shanahan, a partner in Business Dynamics Consulting, Nyack, N.Y.
Mr. Fair, from an electrical engineering background, and Mr. Isaac, a mathematician, came together where the first generation of digital computers met operations research. From their systematic approach to solving business problems, they "brought new insights to consumer credit decisions," said Larry Rosenberger, Fair, Isaac's current president and chief executive officer.
He said they adapted the concept of feedback, as used in tuning electrical systems, to decision systems and process improvements.
They not only systematized credit granting but, because of the inherent objectivity, also made it "fairer and less biased," said Mr. Rosenberger, who came to the company in 1974 as part of a wave of Fair and Isaac proteges. "It fueled the democratization of lending and made a positive social contribution."
Richard Rosenberg also had a hand in democratization. In the 1960s, while at Wells Fargo Bank, he was in on the initial planning of what was then Master Charge.
Part of what made credit cards revolutionary to the banks, Mr. Rosenberg said in an interview Thursday, was that they made small personal loans profitable.
Mr. Shanahan said Mr. Rosenberg is being cited for a career that took him from involvement in some of the earliest card marketing innovations to the chairmanship of BankAmerica, the company that years earlier created BankAmericard and Visa.
"He is a guy from the card business who went all the way to the top," Mr. Shanahan said.
Mr. Rosenberg was also one of the few to have served on the boards of both MasterCard and Visa.
He was chairman of MasterCard International when he worked at Wells, and he formed an active oversight team in the 1980s with co-directors Alex "Pete" Hart, then of First Interstate Bancorp and now of Advanta Corp., and Arthur Ziegler, retired from Marine Midland Banks.
Russell E. Hogg, MasterCard's CEO most of those years, Mr. Hart, who succeeded him in 1989, and their Visa International counterparts Dee W. Hock and Charles T. Russell are in line for future ABA distinguished service awards.
Mr. Rosenberg said one of his proudest MasterCard board accomplishments was his successful advocacy in the early 1980s of a gold card. "We had to have a competitive product, and it took credit cards to another level," he said.
He retired as BankAmerica chairman in 1996 and said he spends considerable time serving on corporate and nonprofit boards. He has plenty of war stories from the early days. He recalled that when the Master Charge group was considering product names, one of the finalists was "Shop and Go. And that may have been more appropriate given how high the fraud losses were at the time."
He also pointed out that well into the 1970s, "the rule of thumb was that if losses were more than 1% of sales or 2% of outstandings, one couldn't survive as a plan manager." Current levels are well beyond 2% of loans.
Mr. Yanak personifies automated teller machine networking. His launching in 1974 of the first ATM shared by multiple financial institutions marked the start of the Exchange Network in the Pacific Northwest, which served as a model for groups in other regions.
When he retired 22 years later, Mr. Yanak was CEO of the NYCE network in the Northeast, for which he remains a senior consultant.
Reached by phone this week in his new Seattle home, Mr. Yanak commented on the ABA's symbolism.
"It's appropriate," he said of the fact that a historically credit- oriented part of the association is honoring a "debit guy." "It's a problem in the banking industry when there is no conversation between the two sides."
Mr. Yanak said he has taken time since he stepped down from New Jersey- based NYCE last fall to "reacquaint himself with folks in the banking and networking business"-as well as with friends and family, including grandchildren, in his hometown of Seattle.
He plans to be active beyond his open-ended consulting arrangement with NYCE, which he said amounts to at least a conversation a week with his successor, Dennis Lynch.
Mr. Yanak added, "I'd like to be able to pick and choose some really fun projects.
"I have always been intrigued by the idea of teaching," he said. "I will be talking to some of the educational institutions here in the Northwest about developing a curriculum on the banking business, and electronic banking in particular.
"That might permit me to teach a couple of courses a year."
As head of his own company, R.P. Yanak & Associates, he spent two years laying the groundwork for the initial ATM in Bellevue, Wash., that was shared by 18 banks and thrifts.
Mr. Yanak credited his legal counsel, Louis Pepper, for shaping the network structure and contracts in such a way that it influenced ATM- enabling legislation in Olympia, Wash., and many other capitals. Mr. Pepper went on to become chairman of Washington Mutual Savings Bank.
Mr. Yanak eventually came east to run an ATM network for New York-area savings banks and head the technology subsidiary of the former American Savings Bank in New York. As CEO of Yankee 24, the major ATM system in New England, he spearheaded its merger into NYCE in 1994.
"I've known him for 10 years, and he is a remarkable guy," said Mr. Lynch, the current NYCE CEO. "A lot of what he did still reverberates through the hallways here.
"His contribution was not just in numbers of networks or transactions, but in his ability, energy, focus, and the special chemistry he brought to every person he met and every meeting he participated in."
Mr. Yanak "is one of those people everybody seems to feel positively about," Mr. Shanahan said. "He was universally respected as a guy who was constantly trying to push the needle, and he is a great spokesman for the industry."
Mr. Yanak, 62, and Mr. Rosenberg, 67, will attend the ABA bank card meeting for a special dinner and other presentations Sept. 21-23 in Long Beach, Calif. Fair, Isaac chairman Robert Oliver, a retired University of California professor, will attend on the late founders' behalf.