David Anastasi, the part-time leader of the Global Chipcard Alliance, has decided to take the full-time job of chief executive officer.
As a U S West executive in Seattle, Mr. Anastasi was one of the founders of the GCA. He served as its first president while keeping his "day job" as vice president and general manager of U S West's public access solutions and smart card division. The position of CEO is new.
"This is the ultimate statement I could make about my feelings for the smart card industry," said Mr. Anastasi, 42. "I left a very good company that I was very happy with."
He said that the industry is "poised to really take off," and that GCA has the ability to "integrate the users and issuers on a global level."
One of his first tasks is to expand the list of 29 member companies across a broader base of industries.
GCA was started in 1996 by U S West and several international telecommunications companies. It quickly began generating interest from banks and others wanting to promote global technical interoperability.
American Express was the first financial services member and has been followed by Citigroup, Wells Fargo & Co., MasterCard, Visa, and others.
Mr. Anastasi said the education, transportation, and retailing industries are lacking. He also wants to attract more members from South America and Asia.
He said the future lies in being able to package multiple functions on a single card, and he wants to pursue that goal by encouraging alliances among GCA members.
"It is difficult to have penetration when you only have one application," Mr. Anastasi said. "Using stored value in partnership with other applications is the ultimate way to succeed with smart cards."
Early trials that focused on stored value failed, he said, because they required a change in consumer behavior, which is the "hardest thing to push."
Mr. Anastasi spent four years at U S West and played a major role in smart card innovations, including prepaid long distance cards and public Internet kiosks.
Before that he was head of operations for 14 years at Neopost, a Hayward, Calif., subsidiary of a French office products company. He worked previously in advertising.
"I have a good consumer background and a good business-to-business background," he said. "This will help in the GCA's focus on how to help our members come together and create partnerships."
Craig Stephens, chairman of GCA's board and vice president and general manager of public communications at GTE Telephone Operations, said Mr. Anastasi's "deep understanding of the smart card industry, in addition to his diverse, cross-industry background, make him the best candidate for leading the GCA into the 21st century."
Mr. Anastasi is not deterred by smart cards' slow takeoff in the United States. He compares their life cycle to that of the Internet, which "was around for 28 years before it took off," and to automated teller machines, which "took 20 years to really become big."
With smart cards around for about 16 years, he said, they are developing at a "realistic pace" and could be all the rage in three to four years.
One of the ways Mr. Anastasi gauges smart card progress is by the number of press releases.
"Three and a half years ago when I started getting involved in smart cards, you'd see one press announcement about them a week," he recalled. "Now there are three to five a day from companies getting together and partnering. That in itself demonstrates that people believe in the technology and capabilities of it."
One major challenge for the GCA is interoperability. Like the OpenCard Consortium-which has developed a Java language-based standard-and other bodies, the GCA has hopes of setting a global standard for smart cards.
Last August, at a member meeting in Seattle, it unveiled a proposal called Netuser Identifier Module, or NIM. Its purpose is to create a global network on which any smart card can be read by any point-of-sale terminal.
Mr. Anastasi differentiates GCA from two other groups that have gone through similar growing pains and that have asserted certain common principles with GCA. The Smart Card Forum hired Donna Farmer as its first full-time CEO last November; SCIA plans to name a new chief by June.
Mr. Anastasi said he hopes to work as an "industry integrator," helping the forum to take its educational programs overseas and working to bring SCIA's manufacturing and technology members closer to users and issuers.
But his main job, he said, will be to help his members advance their smart card businesses.
"There are already a lot of initiatives going on in the U.S., like universities and transit," Mr. Anastasi said. "That's the beginning of the evolution."
The Smart Card Forum has scheduled a May 20 symposium in Washington on privacy and security issues in the Internet era.
Chief executive officer Donna Farmer said the event is in keeping with the forum's "tradition of introducing and illuminating the leading issues of the day" by bringing together experts and opinion leaders.
Scheduled speakers include Rep. Vern Ehlers of Michigan, Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Intel Corp. vice president of business development Steve Ellis, Cybercash Inc. co-founder Steve Crocker, Stewart Baker of the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, and the data encryption pioneer Taher Elgamal of Kroll-O'Gara Co.