Less than two years after its official launch, the Smart Card Forum has appointed I. Robert Gilson as its first full-time executive director.

Of 20 applicants considered, Mr. Gilson, of National City Bank, Indianapolis, was chosen for his experience with automated teller machine networks, notably his work on MasterCard's Cirrus committees.

Catherine A. Allen, chairwoman of the forum and vice president of Citibank, said Mr. Gilson has a "great personality" and a "style that works well with people."

She called him a facilitator who would be able to "bring different constituencies and viewpoints together on an issue."

Banking is only one of the industries represented in the Smart Card Forum, which promotes standardization and implementation of chip card technology in North America. High-technology, telecommunications, and media companies are also well represented.

The more than 150 members include Citibank, its key organizer, as well as American Express, AT&T, Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Microsoft.

Mr. Gilson, 51, was director of electronic funds transfer network services for National City Bank in Indiana - formerly Merchants National Corp. - for 17 years. He was in charge of ATM service sales, customer service, card production, and a staff of 19.

His new responsibilities, which he took on last month, include administrative functions and ensuring that various reports and meeting schedules are delivered to members on time.

"We intend to be a leading knowledge-based source of information for smart card development," Mr. Gilson said.

Ms. Allen said that while the Smart Card Forum will maintain its focus on education, it will also assist in business planning and implementation efforts, and market trials.

One of Mr. Gilson's main roles will be to recruit new members, both in the United States and abroad, where smart card technology is more advanced.

"The challenge will be to communicate the (forum's) efforts currently under way and the research being done," he said.

The forum hopes new members will invest dollars and personnel to help with research and development. "I have to convince them it's a good deal to participate in forum activities," Mr. Gilson added.

One benefit of membership is access to a substantial library that can help members launch trials. Mr. Gilson said the forum will sponsor an on- line trial this fall using the Internet. Members will have the ability to order information, using a smart card for identification purposes. Card readers will be attached to their personal computers.

Mr. Gilson has relocated to Tampa, Fla., where the group is renting office space from Payment Systems Inc. The consulting firm has been providing administrative support, and will continue to give the forum access to its library and other facilities.

He said the Smart Card Forum intends to remain "lean and mean," saving on administrative overhead to invest in an annual conference and other activities.

Mr. Gilson said he wished to "stay in the forefront of new developments, and the Smart Card Forum gave me the opportunity to do that."

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