Visa International has named Stephen Schapp executive vice president of a new emerging products division that includes smart card and electronic commerce activities.
The unit consolidates the emerging electronic payments and chip products groups, which Mr. Schapp had headed since February.
The new division is responsible for chip-based debit and credit cards, the Visa Cash stored-value program, Internet technology, and Copac, which is Visa's offline preauthorized payment product that uses a chip card.
"With smart cards and the Internet converging to revolutionize payments, combining Visa's chip and electronic payments groups under a common management will best position Visa to help our members take full advantage of these exciting new opportunities," said Daniel R. Eitingon, president of Visa's global support services group.
Though Mr. Schapp is focused on innovations, he sees his primary role as "protecting the banks' franchise in the new world."
Mr. Schapp, 46, is getting ready for what he called "the most significant change in the role of the bank card since the credit card was invented." He said he thinks the industry must act now to rise above the coming competition in chip-based cards.
Visa is bracing itself for the time when customers will be carrying a variety of multifunctional cards issued by a variety of organizations, including financial institutions, retailers, and telephone companies.
"The challenge is to make sure that the cards that banks issue provide the highest utility to the consumer" and continue to be the customer's top choice, Mr. Schapp said in an interview.
He has worked at Visa for 23 years in the United States and Europe. His boss, Mr. Eitingon, had been considering other alternatives for managing smart cards and Internet commerce but was persuaded to hand Mr. Schapp the larger job after he led the two separate groups this year.
Before taking those posts in San Francisco, Mr. Schapp had spent three years in London as executive vice president of products and marketing for the European Union region. Before that he spent three years in Germany, where he was responsible for products, operational support, and advertising.
His first 12 years at Visa consisted mostly of operational responsibilities in the United States, including member services and the data center. Mr. Schapp also held management posts in credit and business products for Visa U.S.A. and planning for Visa International.
Mr. Schapp said he does not buy into the view that the United States is lagging in smart cards. Visa has 13 Visa Cash programs here, he said, more than in any other country.
European banks may have been driven faster, he said, by "a concern that they want to maintain control over the payment services" against telecommunications companies that got into smart cards earlier.
In Europe and worldwide, Mr. Schapp said, banks have competitive advantages in "the trust they enjoy from consumers, their tradition of providing financial services, and their historic role as an authenticator of customers."
He said a card association and its strong brand will be crucial to banks' "delivering global, anywhere-anytime access to a wide variety of services."
As smart cards develop, however, the association's name would probably take a back seat to bank brands.
"Where today a consumer might think about their card as a Visa card, in the future they will think of it as their bank's card providing a number of different services-one of those being the Visa payment service," Mr. Schapp said.
He said his challenges include finding a way to work with MasterCard on a common industry technical standard. Visa is promoting its Open Platform, based on the Java programming language, but MasterCard and its Mondex International affiliate are wedded to the Multos operating system.
"I do not believe it will be acceptable to our members to have to support one technical infrastructure for their Visa card and a totally different one for their MasterCard," Mr. Schapp said.