The Bankers Roundtable said it has named former Citicorp executive Catherine A. Allen chief executive officer of its electronic strategy offshoot, the Banking Industry Technology Secretariat.
Effective April 15, Ms. Allen takes on the sensitive but high-profile assignment of promoting a central role for banks in the planning and evolution of payment systems.
Her appointment was ratified unanimously last week by the Roundtable and Secretariat boards, ending a search that began last fall and was said to have cast a wide net among senior-level bankers and technologists inside and outside the industry.
"We worked long and hard on this," said Anthony Cluff, executive director of the Washington-based Roundtable, who was devoting part-time attention to the unit known as Bits.
"We did the best we could" without a CEO, he said. "Now we can focus on it and push it forward full-time. Cathy is very enthusiastic, has tremendous energy and great ideas."
Ms. Allen said she will hit the ground running, assembling a staff of six or seven while also drawing on the Roundtable's resources. An immediate task will be to pore through the 72 responses to a recent request for information about creating a real-time electronic payment system.
Ms. Allen, 50, came to prominence between 1992 and 1995 when as a vice president in the Citicorp technology office, she organized the Smart Card Forum and served as its first chairman. It got past suspicions about Citicorp's motives to become an influential, international body of more than 200 members that cross industry lines and share common goals on smart card deployment.
"She has the ability to create and articulate a shared vision that transcends competitive issues," said William Barr of Bellcore, who helped Ms. Allen get the forum off the ground. "You can't overcome those issues, but you can understand what is infrastructure and should be shared."
"She may be one of the few people who can pull this off," Mr. Barr said of the Bits job.
"She brought diverse interests together" at the Smart Card Forum. "I hope and believe she can do the same in this new world," said Dan Schutzer, a Citicorp vice president who organized a parallel group, the Financial Services Technology Consortium.
"She knows the issues of standards and interoperability," said Huntington Bancshares senior vice president William Randle. Standards work is essential "if we are to have any say in the future of electronic commerce."
Mr. Cluff said Ms. Allen's Smart Card Forum work and grounding in banking appealed to the search team led by Bits chairman Frank Wobst, also chairman of Huntington Bancshares in Columbus, Ohio, and Bankers Roundtable immediate past chairman Roger Fitzsimonds, chairman of Firstar Corp., Milwaukee. (Frank Cahouet of Mellon Bank Corp. rose to the Roundtable chairmanship at the Naples, Fla., meeting last week.)
Ms. Allen worked at Citicorp from 1989 until early 1996, following marketing and research stints at Dun & Bradstreet and CBS and as a professor at American University in Washington.
She will be taking a leave from Santa Fe Group, a consulting firm she founded and served as president and CEO.
At Bits she will be reporting to a board that includes such prominent chairmen as John Reed of Citicorp, Hugh McColl of NationsBank, David Coulter of BankAmerica, and Richard Kovacevich of Norwest.
They and other Roundtable members, who come from the 125 biggest banking companies, formed Bits last September after concluding that the rapid pace of technological change required systematic research, discussions, and perhaps collaborative action.
"They have a bias for action in a short time period," Ms. Allen said.