Mondex, the British smart card company, is soon to open a U.S. office in New Jersey headed by Timothy J. Stewart, a former AT&T executive.

Mr. Stewart was hired in December, though he has yet to set up an official office. As executive vice president for the Americas region, he will be responsible for managing the electronic cash system in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

Mondex, which was developed by National Westminster Bank of London, is slowly moving in on North America. An electronic purse pilot is set to take place around yearend in Guelph, Ontario, under the aegis of Mondex Canada owners Royal Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

In addition to the principal Mondex demonstration by Natwest and Midland Bank in Swindon, England, a small, in-house test at Wells Fargo & Co.'s headquarters in San Francisco began last August. The company said it is close to consummating deals with other U.S. banks, but it does not want to release their names until the national, multibank franchise is in place.

A U.S. office will offer U.S. partners a convenient link to the global network - another franchisee is Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. - while giving the home office in London an inside view of the American market, said Mondex chief executive officer Tim Jones.

"Tim (Stewart) will be extremely successful," said Mr. Jones. "He's getting very good reviews" from North American participants.

Mr. Stewart's career at AT&T spanned 31 years and a wide range of activities. In his last position, as head of a strategic planning division that explored emerging technologies for Bell Laboratories, he was responsible for examining the advent of electronic money, including Mondex.

AT&T's recent restructuring left Mr. Stewart with a choice of two jobs at the telecommunications company, but he opted to take a retirement package and a new path.

Mr. Stewart, 53, said his new job provides an "exciting opportunity to develop an excellent project in this region."

Mr. Stewart said Mondex's U.S. office will employ 10 people at most. Recruitment is under way, but the office will not be open until late spring or summer.

"It certainly makes sense to have a U.S. office with a senior-level person," said Ben Miller, a newsletter publisher and chairman of CardTech/Securtech, the Rockville, Md., company that sponsors a major card technology conference and trade show.

Mr. Miller said Tim Jones needs a break from a hectic travel schedule. "That's got to wear you down."

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