Visa Inc.’s Head of Mobile Out; Execs Possibly Sidelined, as Company Shakes Up Digital Effort
NFC Times Exclusive: As part of an apparent shake-up at Visa Inc., Bill Gajda, head of mobile, and Jennifer Schulz, responsible for the V.me wallet, are out, while the company appears to have sidelined former head of product Jim McCarthy and put global executive Elizabeth Buse back into her former position, NFC Times has learned.
At the same time, Visa has strengthened the role of Sam Shrauger, a former PayPal vice president, who as Visa’s new global head of digital is now the key executive tasked with invigorating mobile and online commerce at Visa, sources told NFC Times.
One source said Shrauger will report directly to new Visa president Ryan McInerney. If true, Shrauger would bypass executives Buse and McCarthy, who are believed to have diminished roles when it comes to Visa's digital initiatives–as first-year CEO Charles Scharf moves to revamp Visa’s struggling mobile and e-commerce programs and perhaps other parts of the organization, sources said.
A Visa spokeswoman, however, told NFC Times that Shrauger is reporting directly to Buse, not McInerney. The spokeswoman at first declined to confirm or comment on what sources said was the dismissal of Gajda and the departure and possible dismissal of Schulz. And she also wouldn't comment on whether McCarthy would have a future role in mobile or other digital payments.
UPDATED: But she later denied that Gajda had been dismissed and said he now “has a broader role as global head of strategic partnerships and is managing Visa’s relationships with mobile network operators, device manufacturers, and platform providers.” She said he will be reporting to McCarthy, who has recently been named global head of innovation and strategic partnerships.
But a source told NFC Times that this could just be a position in which to phase Gajda out. The spokeswoman did not add any comments on Schulz.
Editor's note: NFC Times stands by the accuracy of its story. END UPDATE.
Scharf, who succeeded Joseph Saunders as CEO last November, named his youthful former colleague at JPMorgan Chase, McInerney, as president three months ago, passing over Buse, a Visa veteran who is believed to have campaigned internally for a promotion to president and possibly CEO before that, a source told NFC Times. Instead, Scharf appointed Buse to a newly created post of global executive for solutions.
She left Singapore, where she was group executive for Visa’s Asia-Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa, in the past week or two to take up the post at Visa Inc.’s headquarters in California.
In her new role, Buse is charged with managing mobile and other digital channels, along with processing services, information products and merchant sales and solutions, including CyberSource. But sources said the job is similar to her old position as global head of product, which she had given up in early 2010 to take the assignment in Singapore. McCarthy had taken over for Buse as Visa’s global head of product in 2010.
Meanwhile, McCarthy, who had overseen innovation, including NFC and contactless, in addition to global credit, debit and prepaid card programs, as head of product, has been reassigned. Visa's site identifies his new role as global head of innovation and strategic partnerships, but lists no duties yet, and some observers speculate he will retire.
Shrauger, as global head of digital for developed markets, will oversee both online and mobile commerce, including NFC, payWave contactless payments and V.me.
He worked eight years at PayPal, last serving as vice president of global product and experience. He launched PayPal’s digital goods payment service, led the integration of Bill Me Later after its 2008 acquisition, and co-founded PayPal’s merchant services business unit.
Shrauger left PayPal for a one-month stint at Yahoo! as senior vice president of commerce in the spring of 2012, hired by his former boss at PayPal, Scott Thompson. Thompson’s five-month tenure as CEO of Yahoo! ended in May of 2012 following revelations that he had falsified his résumé.
Shrauger also departed Yahoo! in May of 2012, after Thompson’s ouster, and he began work at Visa for Scharf's new administration as head of global commercialization in November of that year. It’s unclear when Visa created the new post as global head of digital for him, but it is believed to be recently.
It’s also unclear whether Visa will appoint a successor to Gajda to specifically head mobile.
Gajda was a high-profile pick by Visa in February of 2010 to become the payment scheme’s first head of mobile.
Visa had gone outside the banking and payment industries for Gajda, who had served as chief commercial officer at the large mobile operator trade association, the GSMA. Among other things, he had overseen the association’s mobile-money transfer program, which helps telcos enable subscribers to send money from their mobile phones to family and friends domestically and abroad.
But industry observers can point to few accomplishments for Gajda during his three and a half years at Visa, and he generally kept a low industry profile.
During his tenure, Visa, in mid-2011, acquired South Africa-based Fundamo for about $110 million, a platform provider for mobile-money transfers and banking in developing markets. At about the same time, Visa signed a long-term commercial agreement with UK-based Monitise, which provides mobile financial services platforms in developed markets.
More recently, Visa signed an agreement with Samsung Electronics to preload Visa payWave on embedded chips in Samsung NFC phones.
It’s unclear how big of a role Gajda played in the Fundamo acquisition or agreements with Monitise and Samsung, and it remains to be seen whether these deals will pay off for Visa.
Visa announced the agreement with Samsung in February of this year and has yet to introduce its first mobile-payment services as part of the deal.
Meanwhile, Visa’s digital wallet and e-commerce check-out service, V.me, has failed to gain traction in North America, with few large banks or Web merchants adopting it since it was introduced late last year.
Jennifer Schulz, global head of ecommerce, who spearheaded development and strategy for V.me, has left the company recently, sources said.
Visa rival MasterCard Worldwide also reorganized its personnel and digital strategy, earlier this year.
Both payment schemes have struggled to find a coherent strategy to encourage consumers to pay with their brands on smartphones and other devices.