Wachovia Corp. has created a business unit to oversee all its payment offerings for consumers and small businesses.
The Charlotte company said Friday that Steven G. Boehm, an executive vice president and the president of its card services business, will run the consumer and small-business payments unit.
The card operation is being folded into the payment unit, which Mr. Boehm said would be fully operational by yearend.
Mr. Boehm said in an interview that the unit's mission will be to examine customers' spending habits and pitch them the most appropriate payment services.
"If we were talking about the cards business 10 years ago, we'd be thinking about the number of customers that have credit cards," and salespeople would be thinking only about pitching card products, he said.
"It really is just a different way to examine and think about capturing a larger share of spending that customers are going to do in their lives."
The unit will oversee Wachovia's development of payment products and services. "The point is to think about products that consumers and small businesses use to pay for goods and services as one business," he said. "The time is right. There's a lot of evolution going on in the market right now from a technology point of view."
For example, consumers are already using mobile phones as payment instruments in other countries, and the technology is starting to appear in the United States. Wachovia's unit would not view mobile payments as a separate business, he said.
The new unit will oversee Wachovia's bill-payment services, prepaid products such as stored-value cards, money movement services, and other payment products.
"There is a tremendous amount of payments services that are being developed," Mr. Boehm said, including those such as eBay Inc.'s PayPal that do not require a relationship with a particular bank.
The card business he heads will remain intact, he said.
Wachovia's payment offerings have undergone some significant changes in recent years. Most notably, it began issuing its own credit cards in July of last year after MBNA Corp., which had issued its cards, sold itself to Bank of America Corp. in January of that year.
Patricia Hines, a senior analyst with the wholesale banking practice at the TowerGroup Inc., a Needham, Mass., independent research firm owned by MasterCard Inc., said that creating a payment unit is "really a smart business decision, because it allows the bank to really think about payments across channels."
The increasing complexity in the payment market is prompting other banks to reconsider their approach, Ms. Hines said.
"It's gotten very confusing on the payments side," she said. "Many banks now are creating positions — some of them call it a 'payments czar.' " Without this broader view of the payments landscape, "you end up with redundancy," which costs bankers money, even when all of a customer's payment products are from the same company.
It is also wise of Wachovia to handle consumer and small-business customers within the same unit, since the products offered to each group increasingly overlap, Ms. Hines said. For example, more consumers are using wire transfers, which traditionally has been a business service, she said.