The 20 Most Influential Women in Payments

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Barbara Pacheco, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Barbara Pacheco has spent more than 30 years working for one employer — the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City — but her tenure has kept her on the cutting edge of payments technology.

As head of the bank's Financial Services Division, which began in 1999 as a way to better understand the ATM and debit card networks, Pacheco facilitates the supply of payments information across the nation. Her role is vital at a time when new technology is attracting new risks to the payments industry. Smartphones in particular are a "double-edged sword," says Pacheco, because their potential to improve security may not resonate with consumers.

However, challenges like this can be a good thing. "It's fun times to be at the Fed and in payments right now," she says.

Indeed, the Kansas City Fed is known for its expertise in payments technology and the city itself has recently become a hotbed of sorts for alternative payments companies. The region is home to Sprint Nextel, the only wireless carrier that openly supports Google's digital wallet.

Kansas City was chosen in 2011 to be the first to receive Google's high-speed fiber optic network, Fiber, which the company says is 100 times faster than the national average.

"We're doing a lot in KC in respect to payments," Pacheco says.

Under Pacheco's guidance, the KC Fed commissions research projects on mobile payments. Since 2005, it has hosted four international payments conferences.

"We have looked at interchange fees, nonbanks in the payment system and what the new payments systems are," she says. "What is the role for public authorities like the Fed, the Justice Department and payment system regulators as alternatives evolve?"

Pacheco is concerned that some of the new person-to-person payments methods may not be accessible to everyone. "Kind of like you have to 'join the club' to have the service," she says, citing PayPal as an example.

"One of the advantages that the Automated Clearing House and the card networks have is that you can pay anyone, anywhere, anytime," Pacheco notes. "Person to person is one of the gaps the industry is thinking about and that the Fed Reserve thinks about."

Pacheco says while many consumers and businesses in the payments industry want to take advantage of technological developments, "we have to find a way where all the players can see their investments making sense from a business point of view that also satisfies the end users of the payments system."

One way to improve person-to-person payments and leverage mobile technology, according to Pacheco, is to offer a "bank-centric" model through which a financial institution would offer customers the ability to complete a transaction using the ACH with a directory service.

She also notes that unbanked and underbanked consumers "are definitely a segment of the population that needs to be part of the conversation — and the solutions — around payment industry challenges." The payments research group is studying the use of prepaid cards and smartphones to provide opportunities to the underbanked.

Early in her career, Pacheco worked as an equity analyst for brokerage firm Edward Jones while earning her MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. She had a four-year assignment in the Kansas City Fed's human relations department.

While working in the human resources department, she became involved with a national nonprofit organization called Inroads that develops and coaches young people from underserved communities to become a part of corporate America. She still works with the group in an advisory capacity and is a member of its Kansas City Board. "It's been a very fulfilling experience for me," she notes. —Marian Raab

Kim Fitzsimmons, Electronic Transactions Association

Kim Fitzsimmons is having a remarkable run. She was the first woman CEO of a major acquiring company. She's the current president of the Electronic Transactions Association. She's the immediate past president of Women Networking in Electronic Transactions (

She was key in bringing together many players that were notoriously reluctant to work together: She sold supermarkets on the merits of plastic payment cards, convinced community banks to work with independent sales organizations, and talked tech companies into working with payment groups instead of against them.

People in the payments industry often refer to the "Kim Factor" — the force of Fitzsimmons' personality and the esteem many have for her. The phrase was coined by Carrie Rattle, chief marketing officer at Fitzsimmons' current company, Cynergy Data. "Kim operates with integrity, leading by calm confidence while respecting and valuing everyone she touches," says Rattle.

Fitzsimmons started her career fresh out of the University of Mississippi in the late '80s as a salesperson at Concord EFS.

Before long, Fitzsimmons was working closely with Ed Labry, her boss at Concord (a company that provided ATM, credit card, debit card, and payroll processing services and was acquired by First Data) and later at First Data. At Concord, Fitzsimmons cultivated a team of telemarketers to convince merchants to try a new way to pay — PIN debit. She called on supermarket executives working with 1% or 2% margins and convinced them that they would increase ticket sizes by taking plastic cards.

Concord also developed a community-bank program that relieved smaller banks of the need to deal with transaction services but preserved their merchant relationships.

In 1996, Fitzsimmons spun off an independent sales organization with a partner, John Hannaford. Their ISO thrived, and late in 2002 Concord acquired it. Fitzsimmons agreed to come back to Concord to integrate the ISO's sales force with Concord's staff.

First Data bought Concord a year later, and she and Labry moved to the bigger company.

But over time, new challenges beckoned. Companies called with job offers, and she always listened. "My dad always taught me it's easier to find a job when you have a job," she says.

A year ago in January, she joined Cynergy Data as CEO. The company had suffered through a bankruptcy and bad press, but it had a new owner and good executives. Since arriving at Cynergy Data, she and her crew have been refining the sales culture and service.

At the urging of Diane (Vogt) Faro, a former co-worker at First Data who had helped start with consultant Linda Perry and attorney Holli Targan, Fitzsimmons became active in, serving on the board and then becoming president. During her year as president, doubled its membership to more than 500 members.

Fitzsimmons also became active in the Electronic Transactions Association and recently held her first board meeting as president. She intends to continue the efforts of previous president Eddie Myers, CEO of PayPros, and Jason Oxman, the ETA's new CEO, to recruit new member companies.

Words she lives by? "You only come in this world with two things - your name and your word," Fitzsimmons says. "Those two things are very important to me." —Ed McKinley

Ranjana Clark, PayPal

Ranjana Clark's career has taken her from mainstream companies like Wachovia Corp. and Western Union to the top ranks of PayPal, a company bankers often view as disruptive.

In many ways, her career reflects trends in the payments industry overall, as it sheds its traditions and experiments with fresh and daring approaches to the age-old task of moving money.

"I think in our segment of the industry, consumer technology is changing significantly and that is driving significant change in terms of how consumers shop and pay today and how they will shop and pay in the future," Clark says.

In her most recent position at PayPal, a unit of eBay, Clark was senior vice president, chief customer and marketing officer. She focused on global marketing, insight, and customer experience. She also oversaw customer insights, analytical capabilities and brand development. After her interview for this story, Clark took on a new role at eBay, working alongside eBay CTO Mark Carges.

Clark was one of the people eBay CEO John Donahoe singled out for her strong leadership skills when addressing the perceived vacuum left when PayPal President Scott Thompson abruptly left the company last year. The job went to David Marcus, but Clark remains a key player in her company's ranks.

PayPal — founded in 1998 to move money between Palm Pilots — later became more popular than eBay's own payment system, Billpoint, which eBay developed with Wells Fargo. The auction site acquired PayPal in 2002, and after staking its place as a leader in Internet-based payments, industry insiders say PayPal now appears to be returning to its roots through its recent work on mobile devices. "The digital wallet will become the primary way consumers pay and play," Clark says.

This new wallet will carry all forms of tender, including credit cards, bank accounts, gift cards, loyalty cards, airline miles, wish lists, and more. "Everything is in the cloud," Clark explains, adding that how consumers access it will be a more personal decision. While some early adaptors will use digital wallets immediately, others will need something tangible, such as a plastic card.

PayPal introduced such a cloud-based account early last year, allowing consumers to pay at the point of sale by providing just a phone number and a PIN. PayPal also provides the option to use a plastic card, but 70% of in-store PayPal payments take place without the card, the company said in an October earnings call.

About 20 merchants work with PayPal directly to take PayPal payments, and a deal with Discover should open this option to a much broader range of retailers this year.

"We provide merchants of all sizes the ability to compete in a multi-channel environment and we don't compete with them," Clark adds.

Early in her career Clark worked at Wachovia. She moved into the bank's treasury services division in 1999 as the head of product management and later led the division.

In 2007, she became chief marketing officer for the Charlotte, N.C. bank, where she developed an integrated marketing division. During her two decades at Wachovia, Clark worked on the bank's "Way2Save" program that allowed customers to transfer $1 from their checking accounts into a special savings account each time they made a check card purchase or an electronic payment.

Western Union wooed Clark from Wachovia in 2009 by giving her the dual role of president of the company's global payments business and head of global strategy. There she built partnerships with financial institutions that might otherwise have considered Western an opponent in wire transfer, remittance, and bill-pay services. She also helped lead the company into expanded international payments, including business-to-business payment and foreign exchange operations.

Born in India, Clark earned a master's degree in marketing at the Indian Institute Of Management in Ahmedabad in 1982, which led to a five-year stint at Deutsche Bank in Mumbai.

When not working long hours at PayPal, Clark enjoys running with her two dogs, practicing yoga, travelling, and reading. She recently finished Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs and plans to read the Dalai Lama's Advice on Dying.

"That topic is deep on my mind," she says. "There's a lot we can learn about living through the process of dying."

There's also a lot other payments executives can learn from Clark's career path. From her beginnings working for a traditional bank to her current work on cutting-edge payments technology with an upstart like eBay, Clark has worked her way through the ranks of a truly dynamic industry. —MR

Ann Cairns, MasterCard

Based in London, Cairns, who is president of international markets at MasterCard, is responsible for the management of the card network's markets and customer-related activities outside North America. She is also a member of the company's executive committee.

The most interesting event happening in her segment of the industry is the replacement of cash, she says.

Though 85 percent of consumer transactions are still in cash or paper form, "sweeping changes are happening around the globe," she says.

"Governments are adopting biometric solutions to pay benefits and create financial inclusion," she notes, adding that the South African government is increasing security on its benefit cards with voice recognition and thumbprints to authenticate some 10 million people using them.

Consumers are also using contactless cards to pay for everything from coffee in Australia to bus fares in Poland. Meanwhile, e-commerce is accelerating around the world.

In five years, Cairns predicts that the payments industry will see the beginning of a "fully integrated shopping experience as the digital and physical worlds converge." She notes that children are now starting to use tablets at the average age of 10 months.

"As these kids grow up, their interaction with the world will be different and the payments business will have to respond," she says.

Before joining Purchase, N.Y.-based MasterCard two years ago, Cairns was a managing director and head of the Financial Industry Services group for Europe with Alvarez & Marsal, a consulting firm specializing in turnaround and interim management. She has also worked at ABN Amro and Citigroup Inc. —MR

Joyce Cook, International CyberTrans

Cook started her payments career as a sales agent nearly three decades ago. "I quickly realized how much I loved this industry," says Cook, now CEO of International CyberTrans, an electronic transaction-servicing company with merchant clients across the nation.

"I founded my first ISO in the early stages of [the] electronic explosion and 'grew up' with the industry," Cook says.

She started IMA Payment Systems in the late 1980s and developed the business into a national player in the credit-card industry. After selling IMA in 1997, she started International CyberTrans in Brentwood, Tenn., in 2000.

In five years, Cook predicts that the biggest change to payments will be mobile, pointing to the success of Square, whose mobile card reader has in a few years sparked competitors from Fiserv to Groupon.

Cook was among the founders of the Electronic Transactions Association and served two years as president. "The best career decision I ever made was to take a chance on this industry," she says. —MR

Donna Embry, Midwest Acquirers Association

Embry is president of the MidWest Acquirers Association, a nonprofit group in Oak Brook, Ill., that provides training, education and networking for acquiring-industry professionals. She has worked in the payments industry for almost half a century and is also senior vice president of strategic development at Payment Alliance International, a Louisville, Ky.-based ISO and independent ATM supplier.

She says the most interesting development in her segment of the payments industry is how the "mobile phenomenon" is changing the way business is done. "From wallets through couponing through the 'new experience,' all facets of the business are changing and rapidly," Embry notes.

The biggest challenge the industry faces, according to Embry, is keeping up with changing consumer preferences "while keeping up with the various legislative and pricing pressures at a time when the economy is in a recovery period."

In five years, she predicts the most important change in how the payments business is conducted will be the replacement of physical cards to generate transactions.

"Although it will take more than five years to make this option a mass-marketed, accepted way of doing payments, I believe that the current 168 wallets will be condensed down to two or three survivors with ubiquitous standards opening the door for more market acceptance and usage," Embry says.

Embry says the business leader she most admires is Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter and the founder and CEO of mobile payments company Square Inc. "He took a risk, solved a key business issue, changed the face of the industry and woke up a sleeping acquiring industry." —MR

Janet Estep, Nacha

In Estep's role as president and CEO of Nacha, she witnesses the payments industry's push to adapt technology to serve a variety of new purposes.

"There are really no 'new' payments today, but simply new uses of traditional payments — cards, [automated clearing house] payments, and checks," she says.

Estep joined Nacha in 2008, starting as president and chief operating officer before transitioning to CEO the same year. In this role, "I am responsible for ensuring that the ACH network remains a safe, high-quality payments system," she says.

The cost and difficulty of keeping up with fast-changing regulations are among the biggest challenges in her area of the industry, she says.

She predicts that over the next five years, there will be more partnering and blending of organizations with each taking advantage of others' core competencies.

Before joining Nacha, Estep was an executive vice president at U.S. Bancorp, where she ran its transaction services division. —MR

Annmarie "Mimi" Hart, MagTek

Mimi Hart has her eye on low-cost disruptors that use cell phones and tablets to handle payments. Hart is president and CEO of MagTek, a Seal Beach, Calif. firm that specializes in secure card reading and authentication technology.

"Perhaps more significant in the U.S. is the pressure from the major card brands to implement an expensive smart card rollout in the name of security, while promoting NFC payments that provide less security," she says.

Overcoming the hype of smart cards, NFC, and point-to-point encryption is a challenge. "Point-to-point encryption is doomed to fail by its very definition," Hart says. "If you don't encrypt from point A to point B, but you do encrypt from point B to point might be in compliance, but you won't have a secure system."

Before joining MagTek in 2003, Hart was president of Express Card Systems. She also helped form the Secure Remote Payment Council. Hart predicts that in five years, smartphones will be obsolete. "I like the idea of a 'Dick Tracy' watch that does the computing, paying, and communicating," she says. —MR

Lynn Heitman, U.S. Bancorp

After spending over 25 years in the retail cards business, when an opportunity arose to work on product and strategy development for U.S. Bank's corporate payments systems earlier this year, Heitman jumped at the chance.

As senior vice president and head of marketing and product management, Corporate Payment Systems, Heitman now runs marketing and product management for Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank's corporate payment division.

In her previous role, Heitman helped the bank comply with the Durbin amendment. She also worked closely with the retail banking business to identify ways to replace revenue lost to the new regulations.

Last year, Heitman was honored as one of American Banker's "25 Women to Watch."

"The industry is moving beyond individual, narrowly focused payment tools to broader 'solutions,'" she observes. "This new approach helps our clients optimize their working capital and improve their cash forecasting while mitigating payment risks and leveraging payment automation." —MR

Pamela Joseph, U.S. Bancorp

As vice chairman of U.S. Bancorp Payment Services, Joseph is responsible for all payment services at the Minneapolis-based bank, including managing all operations of Elavon, a wholly-owned, global payment processing subsidiary of the holding company.

Joseph points to mobile as the most interesting thing happening in the industry right now.

"The next 24 months will be very transformative in the mobile space as consumers adopt mobile wallets and merchants adapt the point-of-sale technology to accept mobile payments, which will be partially driven by the need to support the migration to EMV in the U.S.," says Joseph, who two years ago launched a contactless EMV-chip card, making U.S. Bancorp among the first to offer such cards to U.S. residents.

Also named as one of the Most Powerful Women in Banking, the 25-year-industry veteran says a big challenge is customer adoption of new technologies. In five years, she predicts some customers will still be using cards at the point of sale.

"However, the general consensus is once mobile is in place, adoption will be rapid. In five years, how you pay, receive loyalty points, or redeem reward points or coupons will predominantly be via phone versus plastic card," Joseph says.

Joseph, who also serves on U.S. Bancorp's Managing Committee, previously worked for Visa International as director of new market development and before that in various management positions at Wells Fargo. —MR

Laura Kelly, American Express

As senior vice president and general manager, Americas, Kelly leads American Express's efforts to transform payments in the Americas and has profit-and-loss responsibility over sales and marketing as well as client and product management.

There is currently a "perfect storm of innovation and access driven by rapidly evolving consumer expectations" in the industry, she says.

"Just a few years ago, consumers didn't expect to be able to handle financial transactions 24/7," she notes. "But now it's table stakes, due to widespread adoption of tablets and smartphones and the availability of financial services products at retail."

She predicts digital access will become more important and prevalent than physical access. "This will change the game for financial services," she says. "The consumer, especially the younger, tech-savvy consumer, will demand digital interaction for every type of financial transaction. Innovation will accelerate as access proliferates, which will drive new products, new channels, and new ways of delivering value to the consumer."

The biggest challenge for the largest players is being relevant to consumers in a changing global economy. "Borders as we now know them will become increasingly irrelevant." Financial institutions will need to have a "relentless focus on global consumer needs, creating products and services that are affordable, safe and simple to use."

Kelly joined Amex in 2011 after six years at MasterCard, where she ran the network's prepaid debit business.

Editor's Note: Subsequent to the compilation of this list, Kelly left American Express for a new job. She is currently chief global product officer at Dun and Bradstreet. —MR

Deborah McWhinney, Citigroup

As the chief operating officer of Citi Enterprise Payments, McWhinney is responsible for developing and implementing new mobile and online services around the globe for some of the world's biggest corporations and governments.

She is also the global product manager of Consumer Integrated Payments at Citi, a business line that enables large merchants to collect money from consumers worldwide by combining classic merchant acquiring and local clearing capabilities.

Looking ahead five years, McWhinney says an important change in how the payments business is conducted will be driven by the digitization of payment flows.

"While corporate payments have long been digitized, the emergence of mobile technology will create consumer digital flows, and with that, the gradual transition from physical cash towards digital money," she says.

"Commerce will become more convenient, consumers will be more informed, and corporations will connect directly to consumers globally. New business models, participants and ecosystems will emerge as part of this transition."

McWhinney joined Citigroup in 2009 as head of the Citi Personal Wealth Management organization. She was previously president of Schwab Institutional, a division of Charles Schwab & Co. that works with independent investment advisers.

She was selected as one of American Banker's "Most Powerful Women in Banking" last year.

She also co-chairs Citi Women, an internal program that works to improve training and sponsorship of female employees at the New York-based financial institution. —MR

Cynthia Murray, Bank of America

Murray, who is managing director and head of Global Treasury Product Infrastructure for Platforms and Ecommerce, drives strategy for Bank of America's corporate e-commerce product suite.

Murray was instrumental in providing B of A's corporate clients a more cohesive payments system over the last few years. Her team whittled the bank's seven different payments platforms to a single payment application that can support more than 200 formats.

In five years, Murray predicts the payments industry's focus will be "on the information associated with payments. The banking industry will move to a more risk-based pricing model for the highly commoditized payment segment."

She joined the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank as part of its acquisition of LaSalle Bank Corp. in 2007. Previously, she served as the head of ABN Amro's North American Transaction Banking division, where she oversaw product development, treasury sales and client service initiatives for the commercial and wholesale markets. —MR

Diane Offereins, Discover

Offereins, currently executive vice president and president, Payment Services at Discover Financial Services, is credited with uniting three brands — Discover Network, PULSE and Diners Club International — into a global business.

Discover has expanded in international markets under Offereins and last year announced a major strategic alliance in India. It also has extended credit and debit alliances in Puerto Rico.

On the domestic front, Discover recently agreed to be the network behind Facebook's new gift card, expanding its reach to Internet-only businesses.

Named as one of American Banker Magazine's "Most Powerful Women in Finance" last year, Offereins was Discover's CIO and CAO prior to heading up payments services. Before joining the Riverwoods, Ill., company in 1998, she was a senior exective vice president at MBNA America Bank.

Offereins notes that technology is moving faster than regulatory changes. "The definition of a 'card' is constantly changing, and it will likely look very different in five years," she says. —MR

Linda Perry, Consultant

The 30-year payments industry veteran left Visa in 2009 after 17 years with the card network, where she was senior vice president and head of acquirer and processor sales for the U.S. Now an independent consultant, Perry runs an eponymous consulting firm in Traverse City, Mich., where she advises merchants, processors, ISOs, and acquiring companies.

While at Visa, Perry established a department that managed relationships with member-bank acquirers, processors, vendors, and independent sales organizations.

As a consultant, she works with traditional payments companies as well as with start-ups and investors.

"The number of players in the value chain in acceptance has grown tremendously over the last five years," she says. "I think we will see some consolidation."

Before working for Visa, Perry was a vice president at Citigroup and worked for Michigan National Bank. An organizer of the U.S. Acquirer Council, Perry is currently helping develop the first global acquiring conference. —MR

Diane Reyes, HSBC

Reyes, global head of payments and cash management, joined HSBC two years ago after 11 years at Citigroup, where she was most recently head of payments for global transaction services.

Mobile innovation is the most interesting thing happening now, Reyes says.

"While mobile banking services have been available for a while in the consumer space, the total picture regarding mobile payments has sometimes been seen as incomplete," she says. "But a combination of developments in technology and infrastructure and a shift in attitudes is now moving the view of the mobile channel in closer alignment with the current exciting reality."

And mobile is not just a channel for small transactions anymore, according to Reyes. HSBC, which is based in London, has transferred $427 million in one mobile payments transaction.

The pace of regulatory change and the need for banks to ensure a seamless experience for clients is a big challenge, Reyes says. "Regulation will bring competitive pressures as regulators establish tougher operational risk, capital and liquidity requirements — a potential advantage to nonbank competitors."

In the next five years, "telecommunications companies will need to strongly rely on collaboration from the banking sector on issues unique to our industry to grow — and vice versa," she says.

Active in industry groups and in mentoring, Reyes was named one of American Banker Magazine's "25 Women to Watch" last year and represents HSBC on the Payments Risk Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She is also a senior sponsor of the Women's Accelerated Development Program at HSBC, which offers development goals for senior female employees at the bank. —MR

Ginger Schmeltzer, Fiserv

Schmeltzer joined Fiserv in August 2012 as senior vice president of emerging payments for the Brookfield, Wis., technology provider.

In the next few years she predicts there will be a "dramatic shift" of cash and check transactions into the digital realm. "We will see significant growth in emerging social payments, mobile payments and image-capture offerings."

Before joining Fiserv, Schmeltzer was senior vice president of digital channel management at Atlanta's SunTrust Banks. Balancing consumer needs against business realities in the digital payments arena is a "huge challenge" for financial institutions right now, according to Schmeltzer.

"Consumers increasingly operate in a real-time world," she says. "The banking system is not structured to be real-time — legacy systems and risk management strategies dictate longer lead times for processing payments or obtaining information." Mobile payments "has the potential to make as significant an impact on the world of consumer payments as the introduction of credit cards," she says. —MR

Jennifer Schulz, Visa

As head of global e-commerce, Schulz is responsible for the strategic direction and management of Visa's global electronic commerce business and driving product innovation strategy.

Her team leads initiatives advancing e-commerce and innovation in payments including, an alternative payment method for online and mobile commerce that facilitates payments from Foster City, Calif.-based Visa and other brands' card accounts. Previously, Schulz led Visa's global and U.S. consumer credit product platforms.

Looking ahead five years, the biggest change for card networks will be new partnerships with governments and nontraditional payment players.

Schulz, who was most recently CEO of Verifi, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based payment and fraud management company, describes her career as a "series of fortunate events: I didn't have a grand plan when I graduated college but worked hard and stepped up when opportunities arose," she says. "A career isn't made up of a single good decision — it's a series of good, and sometimes not so good, decisions." —MR

Secil Watson, Wells Fargo

Watson has worked in the payments industry for more than 20 years as a consultant and service provider. For the past decade, she's been at Wells Fargo, where in January she was named head of Wholesale Internet Solutions and executive vice president.

In her new role, Watson is guiding strategic direction for the bank's Commercial Electronic Office, a customer access portal for commercial customers.

In addition to investing in payment capabilities, she says Wells Fargo is also investing in the front-end experience.

"Five years ago, we used to design our online payment solutions for a handful of browsers running on Windows and iOS, but now, there is a proliferation of devices, browsers, screen sizes, aspect ratios and [operating systems]," she says. "We continue to promise usability across all of these devices, when just keeping up with testing our sites on the newest devices has been a challenge."

Watson joined Wells in 2002 and spent nine years as senior vice president in the Internet services group.

Under her leadership, active mobile channel customers grew to more than seven million, and online banking customers reached nearly 20 million. Bank Technology News named Watson "Innovator of the Year" in 2009 citing her work improving online and mobile banking as well as developing new payments applications. —MR

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