Banks will not lose their critical payment-processing role as money becomes more electronic, Visa's chief executive officer, Edmund P. Jensen, told world leaders gathered recently in Davos, Switzerland.
Mr. Jensen and Visa were invited for the first time to join about 2,000 business executives and political leaders for the World Economic Forum, which focused on the theme "Building a Network Society."
Mr. Jensen found himself sticking up for a beleaguered banking industry.
In a panel discussion last Friday on "Cyber Money: Electronic Commerce and Its Implications," author-futurist Donald Tapscott suggested banks could be left out of electronic payments, and the delivery of financial services in general.
But Mr. Jensen said banks have been evolving well beyond bricks and mortar. "I think banks are going to be extremely involved and very adaptable to adjusting the delivery of financial services," he said in an interview this week, "and we're seeing that happen right now."
Money will become more electronic, he told the Davos forum, but it will pass through banks as charges against customer assets or credits to loan accounts. That will occur in a "network world" through trusted systems like Visa, he added.
"The whole thing was about the networked world," said Mr. Jensen. "A really good example of a networked world is what Visa has done for the past 25 years ... You already have a living global network. Visa and MasterCard will be extremely valuable as payments systems in this global economy."
Many in his audience were surprised, he said, to hear about the extensiveness of the bank card systems. They will soon have a combined one billion cards globally for credit or debit account access.
As soon as there is good end-to-end security, he said, those card accounts are going to become so widespread in electronic commerce as to overwhelm any other payment device, especially when stored value for small payments is added.