Some folks might characterize Edward J. Hogan as the quintessential company man.
But a label like that belies Mr. Hogan's great influence on MasterCard International, the organization with which he has been affiliated for 28 years. Mr. Hogan, according to past and present MasterCard executives, has turned the association in new directions regularly throughout his long tenure.
The brave new world of electronic commerce is what brings Mr. Hogan to the office these days.
"Ed is always the guy up front with the vision, the one who can see the next step," said Norm Tice, chairman of the MasterCard International board and chief executive officer of Boatmen's Credit Card Bank, St. Louis.
"But just as importantly, Ed is absolutely enthusiastic and always well prepared in his presentations to the board," said Mr. Tice. "He makes it easy for the average banker to understand and want to run out and sign up for a new product."
And so at a time when other organizations are searching for fresh, young, computer-literate talent to build new business that will take advantage of the Internet and other on-line networks, MasterCard tapped Mr. Hogan, a 57-year-old who readily admits to an enduring unease in using a personal computer.
Mr. Hogan downplays his lack of PC expertise and points instead to his long history with the company as the very reason he was picked for this important post.
"Technology never brings a product," said Mr. Hogan. "It takes an understanding of the business to make technology work.
"This issue is how do we meaningfully bring credit cards and people into it (the Internet) in a human, social way? That requires somebody that understands how MasterCard works, how cards work, and has been through the many evolutions that have preceded what's going on today."
H. Eugene Lockhart, president of MasterCard International, said he was searching for the person with just the right mix: a credit card background, plus a firm grasp of the association's strategy.
"I also needed someone who can draw out people of diverse backgrounds - marketing types, technology types, merchant types - and who had the personality and nature to bring together all these resources and extend the boundaries of our current business." In every possible way, he said, Mr. Hogan fit the bill.
There are very few people in the world who can boast the depth of experience Mr. Hogan has in the credit card business.
Fresh from a stint as a narcotics agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Hogan was well-prepared for his role as security chief when he joined MasterCard in 1969.
"Security back then was very basic," he said. "If someone steals from us, catch them and make sure they feel pain."
As MasterCard grew from three to its current 1,990 employees, and from 16 million cardholders to close to 300 million cards issued today, more sophisticated security measures were needed. With help from his more technology-savvy colleagues, Mr. Hogan wrote many of the security rules and regulations that MasterCard - and its counterpart Visa International - continue to use today.
"He's written the rules, he's defined our bylaws, he's structured our operations, he's created many of our programs, including Maestro, our global debit program," said Mr. Lockhart, who considers Mr. Hogan a trusted adviser. "That depth of knowledge is exceedingly valuable."
In the past three decades, Mr. Hogan has managed MasterCard's operations department, overseen product development, and masterminded the introduction of MasterCard's worldwide debit program.
"He has endured through a number of administrations at MasterCard because he has remarkable skills," said Alex W. Hart, MasterCard's former chief executive who is now CEO of Advanta Corp.
Mr. Hart, who said he started his reign at MasterCard with strong ideas about debit cards, allowed Mr. Hogan to build a program that was somewhat different from what Mr. Hart had originally envisioned.
"He had the courage to express and defend an opinion, even when that opinion was not the same as mine," said Mr. Hart. "That is a trait I would call priceless."
In his current role as resident electronic commerce guru, Mr. Hogan has come full circle. Trying to find a way for consumers to safely use credit cards for on-line transactions returns Mr. Hogan to his original passion: security.
Mr. Hogan's basic mission is simple, he says. He is charged with building MasterCard into an on-line mark "that signifies utility and security and confidence to consumers."
He is well aware, however, of the more far-reaching implications of the work he is undertaking.
"This is not about people sitting at home and buying yellow sweaters," he said, emphasizing instead that the convenience offered by the new technology will make people's lives better.
Technological advances, he said, will allow Americans to live in a manner "superior to our forefathers," with more leisure time.
It's an ironic statement from a man who admits the frenetic pace of the past year has left him feeling very tired. Besides putting in typically 10 to 12 hours at the office everyday, Mr. Hogan also works at home in the evenings and on weekends, and travels regularly, both domestically and internationally to meet with cyberspace experts.
Mr. Hogan is a man with a mission, and a deadline. Mr. Lockhart asked Mr. Hogan to launch an entirely new business unit, write security codes so consumers can safely use their credit cards to purchase goods using their PCs, develop new applications for the technology, hire a staff, and start making money. The deadline, set by Mr. Lockhart, is April 1, 1996.
And so, despite some initial concerns, Mr. Hogan took to the new assignment with gusto. Although he has only six months to go, he confidently predicts he will meet the deadline.
By next spring, merchants, banks, and consumers will be able to shop over computers without security or fraud fears, he said. He is aware that only a few brave souls will be taking advantage of electronic commerce. He knows that consumers are notoriously slow to adopt new technologies.
Unlike many other futurists, however, Mr. Hogan says he doesn't believe the world will have to wait for the new millennium to witness active and regular electronic commerce.
By 2000, he predicts, the interactive world will be flourishing. "Industry is going to go out and give it to you and you'll take it because it's better than what you have," said Mr. Hogan, promising by next year at least four new applications banks can use to build sources of revenue.
"MasterCard is going to be very active in the interactive world."