Electronic banking veteran Howard Mandelbaum has joined Hypercom Inc. as director of smart card strategic planning and initiatives.

In this newly created position, the 61-year-old Mr. Mandelbaum will be defining Hypercom's role in the emerging smart card marketplace.

"I think this is a good move for Hypercom because it demonstrates a true commitment to the smart card," said Robert P. Barone, chairman and chief executive of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, Herndon, Va.

He also praised Mr. Mandelbaum, a past chairman of the association, for being "always involved in looking into the legal and regulatory ramifications of technology developments in the payment systems world. I would consider the appointment a real statement from Hypercom that it's serious about the smart card business."

Mr. Mandelbaum, who has spent 30 years in the financial services industry, was in on the early stages of shared automated teller machine networks. While at Manufacturers Hanover Corp. he was a founding board member of Cirrus System Inc. and a director of the NYCE network.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Mandelbaum was chief executive of the Northeast Exchange, a network of ATMs deployed in supermarkets in the New York metropolitan area.

More recently, he managed electronic funds transfer research and planning for Chase Manhattan's worldwide consumer banking operations.

For the past eight years, Mr. Mandelbaum was executive director of the National Check Cashers Association, a Paramus, N.J., group he helped form.

"Even when I was in check cashing, I made it my business to follow all developments in payment systems, including smart cards," he said. "My biggest challenge in the new job will be to get my arms around all the developments both inside and outside the company and decide which ones will provide the optimum results for Hypercom."

Mr. Mandelbaum did not discuss any particular projects or plans the company has for smart cards. Hypercom, which is based in Phoenix, is second to Verifone Inc. as a supplier of point of sale transaction terminals and related software.

Each company has introduced devices capable of reading the chip in a smart card. Hypercom has not followed with any high-profile announcements in this area, but is hinting with Mr. Mandelbaum's appointment that it is likely to make some moves.

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