Last month Bond R. Isaacson went on a national press tour to call attention to the ways he was turning around e-Visa, the Visa U.S.A. Inc. electronic commerce division he took over at the start of last year.
On Friday he was again talking to reporters, this time explaining why he abruptly jumped ship for the new and amorphous post of payments executive at Bank of America Corp., which hired him to promote new forms of electronic payments.
He said the job was just too good to pass up, though he has left behind the title of president of the Visa unit for a less specific one. He also insisted that his departure from Visa which was founded by Bank of America was friendly and that the companies will work closely together on developing products.
In a telephone interview Friday, Mr. Isaacson said he was not entirely sure what he would do first at Bank of America, where he now reports to G. Patrick Phillips, president of the card services division. Rather than having a predetermined to-do list, he said he plans to spend time with leaders in each area to identify desirable projects. Im not sure I know where the best place to start is, he said.
He also said that he is looking for a quick strike project that would give his new group some momentum.
Carl F. Pascarella, Visas president and chief executive officer, said he would not name a new president of the 35-person unit but would instead have it report to his chief operating officer, Paul Vessey.
Bond was traveling 80% of the time and left much of the day-to-day management to unit managers, Mr. Pascarella said.
Mr. Isaacson has made several abrupt job shifts in the last three years. He joined Visa from International Business Machines Corp. in April 1999 to take the then-new post of executive vice president of member and merchant relations. Essentially, he was hired by Mr. Pascarella to smooth its dealings with merchants, whose disgruntlement was growing.
But later that year the head of e-Visa resigned. After an interim successor was named, Mr. Pascarella asked Mr. Isaacson to take over the unit. Its fledgling e-commerce efforts had not yet taken off, and. Mr. Isaacson found himself trying to figure out which inherited initiatives were promising.
Mr. Isaacson, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., and never moved to Visas San Francisco headquarters, already had ties with Bank of America. From 1994 to 1999, he was IBMs finance executive responsible for selling and implementing technology at the Bank of America predecessor NationsBank Corp.
In his newest job, its not like I will be distant from Visa, Mr. Isaacson said. Carl said, You can help us there as much as you can help us here.
The move does not mean Bank of America is unhappy with Visa, he said. There are a lot of things Visa doesnt touch within the financial institution, and the institution needs someone to champion those things and get them done.
Mr. Pascarella said Mr. Isaacsons role in setting up partnership programs with member issuers was more important to Visa than his role at e-Visa.
Nevertheless, he called Mr. Isaacsons departure a positive step for the association. I hated to see him go, but we will work as closely with Bond as we ever did. He will run the largest debit business Visa has.
Mr. Isaacsons is the latest in a string of high-profile hirings made outside the banking company by Kenneth D. Lewis, who will officially become chairman and CEO of Bank of America on Wednesday. In January he appointed Charles P. Goslee, an Eastman Kodak executive, to the newly created post of quality and productivity executive and John Quinn, a FedEx Corp. veteran, to be transaction services executive.
Also that month Mr. Lewis put Richard M. DeMartini, chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanleys international private-client group, at the helm of the asset management group. This month Mr. DeMartini brought in Alan Rappaport from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. as president of the private bank.
Mr. Isaacson says he is looking for ways Bank of America can capitalize on its e-payment capabilities, including noncard technology such as wire transfers, automated clearinghouse transfers, and its network of more than 13,000 automated teller machines.
This position is a first in the industry of a payments executive that bridges across the organization, he said. It is less about how many people you own and more about the ability to put some reasoning around what you are doing with payments and why we are doing it.
Bank of America calls itself the No. 1 bank issuer of debit cards, the top deployer of ATMs, and the fourth-largest bank issuer of credit cards in the United States. For the moment, the ATMs in particular have captured Mr. Isaacsons attention. We would like to make those more robust for the customer, he said.
He also said he will stay true to the mantra of his former boss, who takes every opportunity to discuss Visas efforts to take market share away from cash and checks. Mr. Isaacson said Friday he will take a close look at how Bank of America processes consumer payments.
Seventy percent of payments are still cash and checks, he said. A lot can be done to electronify that.
A few weeks ago, as he made the rounds of media outlets touting e-Visas new strategies, Mr. Isaacson said e-Visa had learned its lesson about trying to do too many things and would focus on three areas: person-to-person payments, online authentication, and business-to-business transactions.
Now it appears he will do the same job for Bank of America.
Regardless of how Visa takes the loss of Mr. Isaacson, analysts say Bank of America will come out ahead.
This will provide a competitive advantage for Bank of America because of the breadth and depth of his knowledge, said Stanley W. Anderson, president of Anderson & Associates, an Arvada, Colo., e-commerce consulting firm. Bank of America has been smart and deliberate in terms of e-commerce strategy. They have taken a deliberate approach in a highly competitive marketplace.