Alan B. Roberts has left his one-year stint as chief executive officer of U.S. Wireless Data Inc. to join International Verifact Inc. as director of product development and vice president of U.S. operations.

The job is much like the one Mr. Roberts, 49, held at Verifone Inc. from 1986 to 1994.

His appointment signals Toronto-based International Verifact's intention of expanding its presence in the U.S. marketplace. The company designs and markets point of sale hardware and software for retailers and financial institutions.

"International Verifact already has a good name for itself in check readers and in the retail multilane market," said Mr. Roberts. "My mission will be to create and develop new products that are vital and needed in the marketplace - in both Canada and in the U.S."

International Verifact wants to increase its share of the U.S. point of sale terminal market, a business that is dominated by Verifone. The Redwood City, Calif., vendor accounts for 60% of all shipments by North American suppliers.

"International Verifact has got the same problem everybody else has - namely, to compete in this marketplace it's got to go up against Verifone," said Paul Martaus, president of Martaus & Associates, Clearwater, Fla.

Mr. Roberts "could well take the strategies he used at Verifone to build International Verifact's business," added Mr. Martaus.

Mr. Roberts' "extensive knowledge of the point of sale industry, particularly in the U.S. marketplace, will be a definite asset to our management team," said his new boss, L. Barry Thomson, president and chief operating officer of International Verifact.

Mr. Roberts, who remains on the board of directors of U.S. Wireless, said he made the move for economic reasons.

"U.S. Wireless is still in start-up mode, trying to develop an emerging business," he explained. "In my time with U.S. Wireless, I had reduced the company by half, and my compensation had grown quite large as a percentage of costs.

"I felt there was a need to continue to make cost reductions, so I decided to contribute to the cost reduction myself - by cutting my own job instead of a number of lesser-paid key support people who are young and energetic."

Mr. Roberts was replaced at U.S. Wireless by Michael J. Brisnehan, who had been chief financial officer at the Boulder, Colo., company.

A U.S. Wireless spokesman said that despite Mr. Roberts' departure, the company remained committed to its goals of getting widespread merchant acceptance for wireless point of sale terminals.

Mr. Roberts, meanwhile, will be concentrating on the overall terminal market.

"POS debit in the United States is on a substantial rise, and we certainly intend to take advantage of that," he said. International Verifact "has a strong history in terminals and in PIN security, and we will continue to act on that strength."

Mr. Roberts played down the conjecture that the company is interested in entering the wireless business.

International Verifact "hasn't ruled out getting into the wireless business, perhaps even in partnership with an organization like U.S. Wireless," he said. "But that is not a priority for us."

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