The Smart Card Industry Association has to find a new chief executive officer-but that is a good-news story for a once moribund organization.

Daniel A. Cunningham, whose departure last week as president and CEO created the vacancy, presided over a revival of the trade group, commonly known as SCIA.

He said he achieved his goal of getting SCIA's membership to a "self- sustaining level." It had only 14 members when he was appointed in December 1996, and it has grown to about 90, necessitating an expansion and restructuring of the Lawrenceville, N.J.-based association.

Mr. Cunningham headed it as both a volunteer and independent contractor. He was given the title of director emeritus along with "lifetime honorary" status on the SCIA board, and is assisting in the executive search.

Mr. Cunningham, who has been involved in the chip card business since the French technology hit U.S. shores in the 1980s, will be devoting his full attention to Potomac Systems & Technologies, his consulting firm in Potomac, Md., where he is president and CEO.

"I look forward to moving back to the for-profit sector," Mr. Cunningham said.

The move points to real and anticipated growth in the smart card business-growth that is raising the profile of trade groups and, in turn, requiring more professional management.

The Smart Card Forum, a multi-industry educational body now in its seventh year, hired Donna Farmer as its first full-time president last November. The Global Chipcard Alliance, which has grown from a telecommunications industry nucleus to include banks and others interested in global technical interoperability, is in the market for a CEO.

James B. Lout, chairman of the SCIA's board, said, "Now we're big enough and we have enough power in the industry and enough money to have a long- term plan and management approach."

Mr. Lout, who is president and chief executive officer of Precis Smart Card Systems Inc. in Oklahoma City, added that managing a growing membership and administrative structure "wasn't what Dan wanted to do career-wise."

Among the newest additions to the SCIA are Cubic Transportation Systems of San Diego, Bank One Corp.'s First USA credit card division in Wilmington, Del., and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Alexandria, Va.

The SCIA has expanded from its base of smart card manufacturers and system integrators to include users of the technology. It sees itself as the main global trade association for chip technology.

"We see our value proposition as the education of our members, and we want to be a voice for the industry around the world to publicize and promote smart cards," Mr. Lout said.

He said the SCIA's main focus this year is on helping members to increase productivity. It is planning to identify a "vertical market" such as health care or university campuses and promote the use of smart cards in that specific environment.

The SCIA hopes to announce a new executive director by June, but is still working on the job definition and hiring criteria.

A press release said the SCIA will "be seeking one or more individuals" to fill new management positions.

"This change in structure correlates with our rapid growth in membership and desire to provide consistent and useful services to that membership," the release said.

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