Visa Hires Former Amex Prez Alfred Kelly as CEO

As Visa CEO Charles Scharf announced his resignation this week, Visa’s board of directors unanimously voted to appoint Alfred F. Kelly, Jr. as CEO designate.

Kelly has served on the board at Visa since 2014 and has an extensive history in the payments industry. He worked for American Express for 23 years between 1987 and 2010, serving in a variety of leadership positions. He last served as president, and as the head of numerous divisions including Global Consumer Group, Consumer Card Services Group, OPEN from American Express, and Consumer Travel.

Kelly’s well prepared to run the company. He is the current president and CEO of Intersection Co. and serves on the board of directors at MetLife Inc. Kelly also has been a managing advisor at TowerBrook Capital Partners, LP. He also worked at the White House in the ’80s as a manager of information systems and in strategic planning at PepsiCo. Kelly received his bachelor’s degree and MBA from Iona College.

“It would be a colossal mistake for me to come in and think there’s a number of things I ought to go change…This company is doing extremely well, and Charlie has built a world-class leadership team.”

Kelly told Reuters that as a board member, he “got a front row seat to the various opportunities and issues the company faces.” He takes over at a time when Visa faces a number of challenges, including several court battles with retailers. Reuters said Kelly also will have to continue to consolidate the company’s position as the world’s largest payment network operator, as non-traditional competitors like PayPal and Square increase competition in the space. Kelly has stated his intentions to not make any major changes.

Meanwhile, he’s taking over from a position of strength. Visa’s stock price has risen more than 130% during Scharf’s tenure. “It would be a colossal mistake for me to come in and think there’s a number of things I ought to go change…This company is doing extremely well, and Charlie has built a world-class leadership team,” said Kelly in a conference call with analysts.

Visa’s independent chairman Robert Matschullat said in public statement that Kelly is the “right leader” for the company. “We expect a seamless transition given Al’s deep knowledge of the industry, demonstrated leadership capabilities, and his strong relationships with the talented management team currently in place,” said Matschullat.

Scharf is stepping down so he can be closer to his family. Prior to taking the position in 2012, he lived in New York with his wife and daughters. “I think to do this job properly you need to be committed to spending the appropriate amount of time in San Francisco. Given my personal situation, I don’t feel I can do that right now,” Scharf told the Wall Street Journal.

Kelly will officially join the company on October 31 as CEO designate and will be advised by Scharf for before officially taking the helm on December 1.

Craig Guillot
Craig Guillot is a business writer based in New Orleans, La. His work has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com and CNBC.com. You can read more about his work at www.craigdguillot.com.

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