Magazine article American Banker

Organizational Pro Leading Smart Card Forum

Magazine article American Banker

Organizational Pro Leading Smart Card Forum

Article excerpt

Jean McKenna, the recently installed chairman of the Smart Card Forum, represents a very different brand of leadership.

Only two years into its life, the forum's bylaws required the election of a successor to Catherine Allen of Citicorp, its principal organizer, who became closely identified with the multi- industry educational effort.

Ms. McKenna, 48, a Visa vice president, had been vice chairman of the forum and was in line to step up. Enjoying the strong endorsement of her 18 board members, she offers continuity.

But in personality and style she seems a stark contrast to Ms. Allen, a gregarious marketer who relished the spotlight as the forum grew into the premier card technology association of its kind, with more than 220 members.

Ms. McKenna, with more technical experience and years of pioneering in chip card technology, has her share of exposure at conference podiums, but it is her organizational skills that peers say will make her an able leader as the Smart Card Forum enters its next stage of development.

The vice president of payment technologies for Visa International said she was "excited and overwhelmed" at the challenge.

Ms. McKenna said she "likes working with people" and is good at consensus building, a necessary skill in a diverse group that includes financial institutions, computer and software companies, card and terminal manufacturers, telecommunications firms, and government agencies.

"Everyone brings their own agenda (to the meetings), but because there are so many (members) no one can dominate," she said.

Banking is one of the stronger constituencies. Among those that have joined the forum, once seen as dominated by Citicorp, are Chemical Banking Corp., NationsBank Corp., BankAmerica Corp., and National Westminster Bancorp - all represented on the board. Other members include Bank of Boston Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., Comerica Inc., and MBNA Corp.

In the spirit of openness and when appropriate, Ms. McKenna said she will also welcome nonmembers to participate in forum activities.

The board meets four times a year, as do each of the working groups that address aspects of the burgeoning smart card industry: transportation, telecommunications, financial services, legal and public policy, technology, health care, education, and government.

Two new working groups are being added: travel and entertainment and retail services.

An executive committee oversees administrative functions. Robert Gilson was appointed the forum's first executive director last February and is based in Tampa.

Aside from seminars, conferences, and research projects, the forum has sponsored research into consumers' and merchants' awareness and acceptance of the new technology.

Ms. McKenna won widespread praise after her election at the annual meeting in September.

"Her greatest strengths are her organization skills, her breadth of contacts, and knowledge of the industry," said Ms. Allen, who said she regards Ms. McKenna as a mentor. "My role was to get the forum up and running, get visibilty and membership.

"Jean's role will be to take the forum to the next level of professionalism, making sure it stays organized and focused on our important objectives."

Joseph F. Schuler, senior vice president of National City Corp.'s Stored Value Systems and a forum member, said Ms. McKenna would bring the discipline needed to act on the stated goals, such as generating position papers and developing strategies for different market segments. …

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