Henry M. Polmer, a veteran Washington attorney and a leading expert in electronic banking law, has moved west to take a senior post with Mondex USA.
After 17 years as a partner of Bell Boyd & Lloyd, Mr. Polmer started work Monday at Mondex with dual responsibilities. He is general counsel of the international smart card organization's U.S. franchise, based in San Francisco, and president of Mondex USA Originator, the legal entity responsible for funding and risk management of the electronic cash system.
The general counsel position is new. The originator presidency was previously held by James Rudd, who has taken the new title of chief technology officer of Mondex USA.
Mr. Polmer and Mr. Rudd both report to Janet S. Crane, president of Mondex USA Services LLC, which is the principal commercial enterprise.
The two-company framework has been in place since the announcement of the Mondex USA ownership group late last year. The top posts went to two people-Ms. Crane and Mr. Rudd-from Wells Fargo Bank, Mondex USA's lead shareholder.
By recruiting outside talent and appointing a chief technology officer, the company is signaling a shift into a higher gear. The new appointments took effect on the same day Mondex co-owner Chase Manhattan Bank and Visa Cash issuer Citibank took part in the launch of a New York City smart card trial. The aim of it is to assess consumer and merchant acceptance of the technology, and perhaps indicate how quickly it might spread nationally and internationally.
Ms. Crane said Mr. Rudd's technology-development and legal-originator roles had become too demanding to straddle.
"Jim did a terrific job getting the initial processes in place," she said last week. "With Chase and other rollouts beginning, we are starting to put money through the originating company and putting increasing emphasis on that function."
Ms. Crane called it "a marvelous coup" to be able to bring in Mr. Polmer, 52, a fixture on the legal-regulatory scene from the beginning of the electronic banking specialty. He was deputy general counsel of the National Commission on Electronic Fund Transfers in the 1970s and contributed significantly to its legacies, the EFT Act of 1978 and Federal Reserve Regulation E.
Mr. Polmer has been general counsel to the Electronic Funds Transfer Association for more than 15 years. He was also outside counsel to Cirrus System Inc., the international automated teller machine network now owned by MasterCard International, since its formation in 1982. The Cirrus- MasterCard connection helped lead him down his current path-MasterCard owns 51% of Mondex International and 10% of Mondex USA; Ms. Crane formerly worked at MasterCard and at Mellon Bank, which she represented on the Cirrus board.
Of particular relevance to Mondex, Mr. Polmer serves on the American Bar Association's task force on stored value products.
"I've known Henry for years and we've been talking about this for some time," Ms. Crane said. "He knows so much about this business and so many people in the business, he truly brings us added value. This is a statement about how seriously we intend to work with the regulators, and Henry is very knowledgeable about how to do that."
Mr. Polmer, who got his law degree in 1971 from George Washington University and clerked for U.S. District Judge Luther Youngdahl in Washington, said he expects to spend his time about equally among San Francisco, Washington, and on the road.
In an interview, Mr. Polmer said he reached a stage in his career when it became alluring to shed the customary "outsider" status of legal counsel.
He said he was involved as a lawyer in a previous watershed in consumer payments-ATM networking-and now has the rare chance "to get into the middle of managing and running something as new and exciting as Mondex."
Mr. Rudd, 38, said Mondex USA, though still with only about 20 employees, is getting past the stage when it had the character of a small business, when he and others could be jacks-of-all-trades.
A certified public accountant with an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of California, Mr. Rudd said over the past three years he has been involved in system design as well as security and privacy issues, risk management, consumer sales and marketing aspects, and liaison to regulatory agencies, technology suppliers, member banks, and other Mondex franchises around the world. He will now focus on technology alliances to address strategic business needs and niches.
As a Wells Fargo internal auditor starting in 1987, Mr. Rudd gained an intimate knowledge of electronic delivery systems and the San Francisco bank's pioneering electronic commerce forays. He viewed Mondex, which he defined as "an infinitely distributed computer system," as "a natural extension."
Having supervised the creation of an operations center to support the electronic cash functions of members and licensees, Mr. Rudd said he would stay close to the originator company, which in Mondex context is akin to a central bank. But Mr. Polmer "will be more in the public eye from an originator perspective," he said.