A few weeks ago, I made the public announcement that after 18 years as Executive Director, I was retiring in December. Since that announcement was made, I have received an outpouring of supportive messages of congratulations and appreciation from dozens of Alliance members and industry colleagues. I am humbled by this response. It has stirred up many memories about the past years and has helped me envision what the future holds for the Secure Technology Alliance and the U.S. Payments Forum.
Where did the time go? That is what keeps coming to mind when I look back on my career. I didn’t seek out this job and, in fact, I only assumed the position as interim director in 2002 because I had recently left my company as an Alliance board member and I was actively searching for my next opportunity. The Smart Card Alliance office at that time was in lower Manhattan in New York City, and this was only six months after 9/11. Commuting by car, train, and subway, and walking the final half mile to the office took two hours through a maze of construction and chaos in the area.
The first eight years (2002 – 2010) were marked by the original U.S. rollouts for smart cards across multiple markets. The federal government announced a mandate for a government-wide smart card-enabled ID card; financial institutions introduced the first contactless payment cards; major U.S. cities rolled out contactless transit cards and began moving to accept open loop bank cards; and mobile device manufacturers added secure SIM cards and NFC technology for mobile wallets. The next decade (2010 – 2020) saw the rapid transformation of smart card usage in the U.S., led by the conversion of the payments ecosystem to support EMV chip cards. This market-shifting force had an impact on the entire payments ecosystem and led to the formation of the EMV Migration Forum in 2012 (later changed to the U.S. Payments Forum in 2016). The growth of mobile as a dominant device form factor, the evolution of mobile hardware security from removable U-SIM to embedded secure element, and the advances in IoT security contributed to the Alliance rebranding itself as the Secure Technology Alliance in 2018.
It is hard to say what the next 10 years will have in store for the Secure Technology Alliance and U.S. Payments Forum. COVID-19 has changed everything we once considered “normal,” and its effects will shape the technology industry and consumer behavior in ways we can not predict today. Member-driven industry associations must adapt to these changing conditions and prepare for a world without person-to-person contact and large-scale educational and networking conferences. Collaborative working groups delivering white papers, webinars, and industry best practices documents, which have been a staple of Alliance and Forum activities, will continue to shape the market years ahead of full adoption of new technologies. Surely, more touchless consumer transactions in retail, transit, and physical access security and the growing urgency for trusted, scalable, digital identity solutions (such as mobile driver’s licenses) for work and personal uses will be on the horizon to meet the demands for safer and more protected remote transactions.
Whoever is selected for my position will inherit a strong, connected community of industry professionals and committed organizations to get through these short-term challenges and will capitalize on the tremendous potential in the decade ahead. And I will be watching and cheering for its successes from a safe distance.
Executive Director, Secure Technology Alliance