Visa International has recruited William L. Chenevich, a noted bank automation specialist, to round out its team of senior technologists.
Mr. Chenevich left Home Savings of America late last month to become group vice president of Visa Net service development, a key strategic unit consisting of 400 staff people, or about one-third of the card association's vaunted delivery systems organization.
Reporting to Roger Peirce, executive vice president of international delivery systems, Mr. Chenevich comes in on the same level as three other technology leaders: Scott Loftesness, overseeing card acceptance services; Linda Mock, market development: and Ron Olive, operations.
Mr. Peirce said he had long ago carved out the position that Mr. Chenevich is filling, but in the absence of "the right person" had parceled out the responsibilities among himself and the other group leaders.
The naming of Mr. Chenevich may signal a new level of attention on longer-range planning for the systems that are expected to process more than $1 trillion of Visa transactions by 1999 - about double the current rate.
Mr. Chenevich will oversee development of credit, debit, and risk control services. He will be based in San Francisco but said he expects to travel often "to understand the needs of other Visa regions.
"The U.S. is still the largest region. but Europe ranks high in complexity and I will want to spent a fair amount of time onsite," he said in a recent interview.
Mr. Peirce said Mr. Chenevich's "visionary abilities and banking background will be instrumental in guiding the evolution and expansion of Visa's global payment system."
"I want the group primarily responsible for the strategy and implementation of the business we are in - namely, value exchange - and not have its days cluttered with what happened on the operating floor the day before." Mr. Peirce said.
Mr. Peirce said he had his eye on Mr. Chenevich, formerly of Security Pacific Corp., for years, and tried to convince him to join Visa in 1992. Instead he joined Home Savings as executive vice president and director of information services.
The H.F. Ahmanson & Co. unit is the nation's largest savings institution. Mr. Chenevich stayed long enough to complete a crucial loan automation project, and started at Visa on Oct. 26. Coincidentally, that was the day Ahmanson chief executive officer Richard Deihl and Visa International CEO Charles Russell announced their respective retirements.
Mr. Chenevich said he was drawn to Visa "for challenge and career reasons." It will be a stark contrast with Home Savings' relatively simple product structure and branch-based delivery system.
Mr. Chenevich, 49, rose to industry prominence in more than 10 years with Security Pacific. At the time of its April 1992 merger with BankAmerica Corp., he was president and chief operating officer of Security Pacific Automation Co., one of the more successful examples of a bank back office turned into a profit center.
The automation company had 8,000 employees and $600 million annual budget.
Before that he spent 10 years with Citicorp, and in his last assignment there helped consolidate the merged Carte Blanche and Diners Club subsidiaries.
Advisory Board Member
Mr. Chenevich said he became familiar with Visa as a member of its systems advisory board from 1983 to 1991.
"That's where I first met Roger." said Mr. Chenevich, who is clearly pleased with the stamp the former IBM Corp. official has put on the organization over the past 13 years.
"Over 20-plus years in banking. I came to know Visa very well," Mr. Chenevich added. "Between Citi and Security Pacific I was exposed to every aspect of bank operations. I have a knowledge of bank operations and of where the technology is going, which will be of particular value as I get into my new responsibilities."
Mr. Chenevich also served on the California Bankers Clearing House board.
A |Great Catch'
John Singleton, thc former chief executive of Security Pacific Automation Co., called Mr. Chenevich "a top-notch information systems executive" and a "great catch" for Visa.
"He knows a lot about payment systems and was involved with imaging, did credit card systems work, and had the charge card background before joining Security" said Mr. Singleton, who currently works in IBM's outsourcing unit, Integrated Systems Solutions Corp.
"Bill is no stranger to running large-scale super systems," Mr. Peirce said, using the terminology he applies to Visa's expansive, high-speed global network. "He will have a lot to do with how we exploit the infrastructure we have built to give the Visa brand and the Visa members a competitive advantage."
Emphasis on Teamwork
Mr. Peirce said he puts a premium on teamwork among the people who report to him. (Aside from Mr. Loftesness, Ms. Mock, and Mr. Olive, he oversees Pino Francini, the corporate planning officer, and, indirectly, the regional delivery-system groups like Visa U.S.A.'s under Rosalind Fisher.)
"One of the characteristics I look for in people is that they focus on the challenge, not on turf battles," Mr. Peirce said. "We are all here to create a better way of doing things, accomplishing benefits for the markets we serve, and for society.
"If anything, here we have |negative' turf battles - a willingness to work together. Rather than protecting territory, someone will say, |You take this.'"
With his senior ranks complete, Mr. Peirce, 51, said he is "looking forward to relying more on my team to provide direction and management."
His organization is concerned with both services and system capacity. While dollar volume is doubling over a five- to six-year period, the number of transactions is growing twice as fast. Mr. Peirce attributes this "mismatch" to several foreign countries' reliance on the Visa network as a national clearing mechanism, and on the growth of automated clearing house and point of sale transactions in the United States.
Security and risk control are constant concerns, Mr. Peirce said. Visa is claiming almost immediate paybacks from Payment Service 2000, the loss-reducing enhancements that, began to be implemented earlier this year.
The delivery systems organization is also responsible for the research into card security technologies, including tests of Watermark Magnetics and holomagnetics announced this month. Visa is closely monitoring the smart card - which has an integrated circuit chip inside - but Mr. Peirce said the magnetic stripe alternatives are more feasible and cost-effective in the near term.