A coming-of-age television series starring Jack M. Antonini would have several seminal episodes: his rise to the helm of USAA Federal Savings Bank; his two-year-stint at a credit card company, First USA; his rise and fall at First Union Corp., where he guided its early Internet strategy.
In the latest installment, Mr. Antonini has decided to become chairman and chief executive officer of Globeset Inc., a company that sells software and digital wallets for secure Internet payments. An early advocate of branchless banking, he says his previous jobs taught him that privacy and security are the biggest issues confronting banks on the Internet.
As executive vice president and head of consumer banking at First Union, Mr. Antonini, 47, was charged with creating a Future Bank that would use branches as sales centers and the Internet as chief delivery channel. It was a flop.
In hindsight, Mr. Antonini said, the Future Bank initiative was "strategically sound" but clumsily executed. The whole branch system was restructured to increase employees' sales role and to give them sales incentives. These employees also showed customers how to do business online.
"It was a pretty clever idea," Mr. Antonini said. "We redesigned our Web site and gave it a lot more functionality. We leveraged our brick-and-mortar infrastructure, which helped us to grow our customer base online."
When he arrived at First Union in 1997, it had 200,000 customers online. By 1998 there were 390,000, and 800,000 the next year. But First Union tried to impose the Future Bank idea "too fast," Mr. Antonini said. It should have been done over two to three years but was forced to happen practically overnight.
The project was further complicated by First Union's acquisitions: Signet Banking Corp. in 1997 and CoreStates Financial Corp. in 1998.
"The Signet deal happened at the beginning of the Future Bank implementation, and CoreStates at the end," Mr. Antonini said. "Employees had to learn new products. They were given a new system, new roles, and new compensation. That was all too much for them to handle."
Mr. Antonini says Future Bank "made sense" in the markets where First Union tested it but "stumbled in the markets where it was doing conversions, and that really hurt."
After Mr. Antonini left the company, he started a business to focus on ventures tied to First Union's Internet strategy. But that barely merits an episode in the mini-series.
"We ended up moving away from it," he said of the venture, which never got off the ground. "We did an internal assessment, and I ended up leaving the company."
Mr. Antonini has spent the past seven months relaxing with his family and checking out companies to join. He and Globeset in Austin, Tex., decided it was a match, and he was named president and CEO on July 20.
Globeset sells software that secures payment transactions among financial institutions and between buyers and sellers on electronic exchanges. The six-year-old company has three products on the market: an electronic wallet; software for processing Internet card transactions; and software for reconciling deposits, disbursements, and credit card payments.
Globeset's ServerWallet helps people do one-click shopping and merchants to keep track of sales. In the future, Mr. Antonini said, electronic wallets and smart cards will work in parallel. Globeset is pilot testing electronic wallet software called BankTone Personal Agent, which fills in forms for customers who are shopping on the Internet, gives them one-click checkouts, and can work with smart cards.
Globeset, which employs 308 people in Austin and Dallas, is in the early stages of developing "enterprise agent" software, which would automate Internet purchasing and reconciliation for the business-to-business market.
Mr. Antonini said electronic wallets are the next step for the retail market because they "take away the hassle" of online purchasing. "A wallet helps consumers get more comfortable making purchases online and keeps track of their purchases," he said.
Globeset's backers include Deutsche Bank, American Express Co., Citigroup Inc., Chase Manhattan Corp., and Compaq Computer Corp. It has 18 banking and finance clients among its 300 customers, and revenues at the privately held company have grown 300% in the past year. It is "very solid, very strong, with a good group of investors," Mr. Antonini said.
His priorities at Globeset are to focus on new products and providing "outstanding" customer support. "We want to lead software opportunities to help banks and customers take advantage of the marketplace so customers are not constrained," he said.
Mr. Antonini said he is looking forward to "the excitement of being in a small, entrepreneurial company which is closely aligned with banking." When he was First USA's chief financial officer, he dealt with the Wall Street analyst community, an experience that should aid him if Globeset decides to do an initial public offering, he said.