Jean McKenna, the recently installed chairman of the Smart Card Forum, represents a very different brand of leadership.
Only two years into its life, the forum's bylaws required the election of a successor to Catherine Allen of Citicorp, its principal organizer, who became closely identified with the multi-industry educational effort.
Ms. McKenna, 48, a Visa vice president, had been vice chairman of the forum and was in line to step up. Enjoying the strong endorsement of her 18 board members, she offers continuity.
But in personality and style she seems a stark contrast to Ms. Allen, a gregarious marketer who relished the spotlight as the forum grew into the premier card technology association of its kind, with more than 220 members.
Ms. McKenna, with more technical experience and years of pioneering in chip card technology, has her share of exposure at conference podiums, but it is her organizational skills that peers say will make her an able leader as the Smart Card Forum enters its next stage of development.
The vice president of payment technologies for Visa International said she was "excited and overwhelmed" at the challenge.
Ms. McKenna said she "likes working with people" and is good at consensus building, a necessary skill in a diverse group that includes financial institutions, computer and software companies, card and terminal manufacturers, telecommunications firms, and government agencies.
"Everyone brings their own agenda (to the meetings), but because there are so many (members) no one can dominate," she said.
Banking is one of the stronger constituencies. Among those that have joined the forum, once seen as dominated by Citicorp, are Chemical Banking Corp., NationsBank Corp., BankAmerica Corp., and National Westminster Bancorp - all represented on the board. Other members include Bank of Boston Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., Comerica Inc., and MBNA Corp.
In the spirit of openness and when appropriate, Ms. McKenna said she will also welcome nonmembers to participate in forum activities.
The board meets four times a year, as do each of the working groups that address aspects of the burgeoning smart card industry: transportation, telecommunications, financial services, legal and public policy, technology, health care, education, and government.
Two new working groups are being added: travel and entertainment and retail services.
An executive committee oversees administrative functions. Robert Gilson was appointed the forum's first executive director last February and is based in Tampa.
Aside from seminars, conferences, and research projects, the forum has sponsored research into consumers' and merchants' awareness and acceptance of the new technology.
Ms. McKenna won widespread praise after her election at the annual meeting in September.
"Her greatest strengths are her organization skills, her breadth of contacts, and knowledge of the industry," said Ms. Allen, who said she regards Ms. McKenna as a mentor. "My role was to get the forum up and running, get visibilty and membership.
"Jean's role will be to take the forum to the next level of professionalism, making sure it stays organized and focused on our important objectives."
Joseph F. Schuler, senior vice president of National City Corp.'s Stored Value Systems and a forum member, said Ms. McKenna would bring the discipline needed to act on the stated goals, such as generating position papers and developing strategies for different market segments.
"Jean's organization will help bring these products out, give them substance, and anchor them in reality," Mr. Schuler said.
William Barr, her new vice chairman and executive director of information networking at Bellcore, the research and development company of the seven Baby Bells, called Ms. McKenna "an excellent manager, with all the skills we need to move into a new stage of life with the Smart Card Forum."
William Keenan, senior vice president of marketing for Natwest Bank in Wilmington, Del., and a Smart Card Forum director, called her "results oriented ... With Jean at the helm we can continue to grow the organization."
Ronald Braco, senior vice president and director of electronic banking at Chemical Bank and chairman of the financial services working group, said Ms. McKenna is "very businesslike and professional in her approach."
Ms. McKenna, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, who began her banking career as assistant director of operations with the Canadian Bankers Association, has been an integral part of Visa International's chip card business unit since 1984. She worked on trials of the "super smart card" in Japan and on early consumer research into stored-value applications.
She currently heads a technical team with a staff of six, and represents Visa as chairman of the Europay-MasterCard-Visa working group on worldwide chip card standards. She also chairs a task force for the International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO.
Her Smart Card Forum position will make her schedule more hectic than it already is. The forum will be "hard work that will make Jean McKenna grow as an individual," she said.
Despite the extra demands, Ms. McKenna said her San Francisco-based employer is supportive of her new role. The trick will be to "balance all this," she added.
She said part of that balance will come from sharing the glory, using "the talents of the entire board to support the Smart Card Forum."
"Cathy (Allen), did a tremendous amount of work to make this all happen," said Andrew W. Tarbox, vice president of chip card implementation at MasterCard International. "Jean will be better at delegating some of those responsibilities."
Mr. Tarbox, also a forum board member, called Ms. McKenna an "excellent choice" who is "very fair and balanced."
Mr. Tarbox, who represents Ms. McKenna's competition in the Europay- MasterCard-Visa specifications effort, said he expects she will "do a great job representing the issues of the forum and its membership, rather than issues of Visa."
Ms. McKenna worked closely with Ms. Allen, who will remain on the board, during the two initial years. Ms. McKenna acknowledged the personality contrast, saying, "I tend to be low key."
Though possessing vast knowledge of her subject matter, Ms. McKenna seems less at ease in public speaking, where she will be spending more time representing the forum. At a recent press briefing in New York, she adhered to a script.
She called public speaking "another growth objective."
Ms. McKenna said she expects her two-year term to be rewarding, but not an end in itself.
Speaking on behalf of herself and other chairmen and women who will follow, she said, "Don't judge us on our predecessors. Look at what we bring to the office and evaluate us on our merits."