Mundt Brings Hands-On Style To Helm of the Cirrus Network

The newly hired chief executive of the world's biggest automated teller machine network could be expected to take quickly to the trappings of power, but G. Henry Mundt 3d still answers his own telephone.

In early October, the 36-year-old former Chase Manhattan banker was appointed president and chief executive of Cirrus System Inc., a subsidiary of MasterCard International. Cirrus, by most accounts, is the largest ATM network in the world, with 65,000 machines on-line in 26 countries. Combined, those machines will handle a projected 160 million transactions this year.

With such numbers to look after, Mr. Mundt might be presumed too busy not to have his incoming calls screened.

He begs to differ.

Europe as a Land of Opportunity

"I like to head things off at the pass if I can," Mr. Mundt said in a recent interview. "I've usually got a hand free, so I pick the thing up when it rings."

Not that there has been any shortage of things to do.

With most of the major U.S. banking companies already participating in Cirrus, Mr. Mundt is spearheading the network's push to achieve similar market penetration abroad. To that end, Cirrus has added two European directors to its board.

"What's going on in Europe now [with ATMs] reminds me of what I saw in the United States during my early days in the industry," he said. "It's a tremendous opportunity for us."

After a short stint in consumer banking at Chase exposed him to what he saw as the future of retail delivery -- the ATM -- Mr. Mundt became the third employee of the fledgling Cirrus network in 1983.

From Eight Members to 7,000

The ATM network had just eight financial institutions on its roster at the outset, but the names -- Manufacturers Hanover Corp., BayBanks Inc., First Interstate Bancorp -- carried enough clout to convince Mr. Mundt of Cirrus' stability. His first job was a marketing and sales post.

Since he began his career at Cirrus, Mr. Mundt has watched the network's domestic customer base grow from those original eight institutions to more than 7,000.

More recently, he was instrumental, according to industry experts, in securing for Cirrus the crown jewel of all network agreements -- a pact with the nation's largest banking company, Citicorp.

For years, the banking giant had clung to a go-it-alone retail strategy, refusing to make its specially built ATMs available to anyone but Citicorp cardholders. But last February, heeding requests from customers for more ATMs, Citicorp signed with Cirrus System.

Cost Effectiveness as Selling Point

"We used to sell banks by telling them that for less than the cost of one ATM you can give your customers access to more than a thousand machines owned by other banks," he said. "To a large extent, that's still the most effective approach."

The Citicorp deal brought more than 1,400 ATMs into the Cirrus network, while serving as an unofficial starting point for the network's international campaign. Citicorp is one of the few financial institutions in the world with a significant ATM presence in both the United States and Europe, Mr. Mundt said.

In addition to Cirrus' international expansion, Mr. Mundt said, he envisions a day when the network might become a backbone for home banking systems. Also, he said, he is entertaining the possibility of using Cirrus as intermediary between member institutions and businesses that have designed nonfinancial products for ATMs, such as the new stamps from the Postal Service.

"I think that should keep us busy for now," he said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.