Visa International has appointed IBM veteran James M. Curran to the newly created position of executive vice president, information and product systems.

Mr. Curran joins Visa after 21 years at International Business Machines Corp., most recently as director of distribution channel management in the software solutions division.

He will report to William Chenevich, group executive vice president of Visa Payment Systems.

Mr. Curran, who has been on board since May 15, said he was involved in negotiating Visa's agreement - announced about a month ago - to use IBM's global communications network, Advantis, to deliver a broad range of information to its more than 20,000 card issuing institutions around the world.

"I understand the players and how they do business," said the 45 year- old executive. "We're looking to complement our relationships, drawing on each other's strengths."

Mr. Curran said he decided to join Visa because of exciting developments occurring in the electronic payments industry, and that he looked forward to being closer to the end user of the products he develops.

"Visa will allow me to apply skills I learned in the software laboratory with real deliverable applications to customers."

As computer systems migrate from mainframe to client/server, Visa said, it is searching for the most secure and flexible ways to transfer information from its VisaVue desktop service and other value-added services to customers.

Mr. Curran will shepherd the payments unit along in the process. "We will deliver a system that will give (clients) the security they've always experienced with" mainframe systems, he said.

"The same disciplines that made them feel comfortable with the host will still be there with client/server - systems and network management."

Mr. Curran said Visa will be a provider of value added information management, rather than information exchange.

"We'll send it the way you need it versus just sending information, good luck and God bless."

It is important that customers receive payments data in usable formats, he added, which are flexible and easily transferable into data bases and software applications.

While Mr. Curran said his job as an executive will be to set direction and offer guidance to his staff, he said, "I'm not a hands-off guy - I like technology."

Mr. Curran will be involved with all aspects of information and products systems. We will link the Visa employees who set business strategy and product requirements for Visa services to the software development team.

"We will work in partnerships with product people to ensure that what we are developing is what the marketplace wants."

In a span of 19 days, Mr. Curran sold his Connecticut home, bought one in San Francisco's East Bay area, and moved his wife and two children.

Mr. Curran said his background at IBM encompassed sales and marketing, finance and planning, and development.

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