Cybermark, the smart card joint venture of Huntington Bancshares, Battelle Institute, and Sallie Mae, has hired a chief executive officer from outside the industry.

James B. Graham, 43, was chief executive officer of NetWorld Inc. - a facsimile technology company he took private earlier this year - before taking the Cybermark helm in October.

He founded FaxLand Corp. in 1987 and earlier was president of Cellular Radio Corp. and a product manager at Western Union.

Though he has no experience in the smart card arena, Mr. Graham will bring an entrepreneurial touch to Cybermark, which he called "clearly a start-up organization."

Mr. Graham, who has studied the smart card industry closely since joining Cybermark, said he was attracted by a "strong strategic partnership."

Cybermark began in 1993 as a division of government-sponsored Sallie Mae - formally the Student Loan Marketing Association. To recoup its substantial investment, Sallie Mae sold a majority interest in the company to Huntington, retaining a share in any future profits.

Battelle, which like Huntington and Cybermark is based in Columbus, Ohio, is the principal technology contributor.

Cybermark will focus on closed-payment systems for colleges and other campus-like settings. A test of the technology has been running for a year at the Battelle headquarters near Ohio State University. Ohio Dominican College, also in Columbus, hired the company to implement a smart identification card program for the 1996 fall semester.

"We are one of a handful of companies in the U.S. with this technology," said Mr. Graham. He said the market is "ready to explode. There are so many opportunities, one of my early challenges will be to figure out which ones make strategic sense."

Dan Cunningham, senior vice president at the consulting firm Phoenix Planning and Evaluation Ltd., said demand is growing for closed smart card systems, as is competition. Mr. Graham's "big challenge will be in convincing clients that Cybermark's product is better than the others."

Benjamin Miller, chairman of Cardtech/Securtech, the Rockville, Md.- based conference and publishing company, said Mr. Graham's inexperience shouldn't be a problem: "We need new people to fill positions created by the growth of the industry."

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