First Union Corp. has hired a technology expert to oversee its expanding smart card initiatives.

Michael G. Love, a former executive of Electronic Payment Services Inc., has joined the Charlotte, N.C., bank company as vice president of smart card technologies. He brings 17 years of industry experience to First Union.

Mr. Love, 45, is responsible for managing smart card projects like First Union's venture with Visa Cash, as well as its stored-value program for the Jacksonville Jaguars' football stadium.

He is also an educator, telling bank employees how the technology works and how best to promote it to clients. He reports to Edgar Brown, senior vice president.

"Mike brings a broad range of expertise in the smart card and electronic payments industry," Mr. Brown said. "We look forward to his leadership as we take our smart card program to the next plateau."

During his tenure at EPS, which owns the MAC automated teller machine network, Mr. Love was project manager in charge of a smart card pilot at the company's Wilmington, Del., headquarters.

Peter Quadagno, president of Quadagno Associates, Bethlehem, Pa., and a former EPS executive, called his colleague "amply capable. From a technology and implementation standpoint, I think they got a good guy."

After a brief stint as a consultant - he left EPS in January - Mr. Love decided to return to the corporate world, where, he said, "the action is." He noted First Union's commitment to the burgeoning technology and also cited the opportunities for growth. "I wanted to get back on that train."

Mr. Love said First Union is "working in lockstep with Visa to go forward with Atlanta," where a high-profile Visa Cash pilot was launched this summer in conjunction with the Olympic Games.

Though industry observers said a business case was not proven for the plastic payment cards that store value on computer chips, Mr. Love said the bank company is "100% committed" to the program, issuing reloadable cards and recruiting merchants.

"One of our goals was to raise awareness of the product. We did hit that mark," he said. "We're building on that success."

In addition to Atlanta, First Union is expanding its headquarters pilot, adding employees in two buildings in downtown Charlotte and merchants nearby.

Before joining EPS in 1992, Mr. Love was chief technology officer at Metroteller Systems Inc., a Buffalo-based ATM network.

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