By David S. Evans

What’s good enough for most major sports superstars, and even good old rock n’roll, is certainly good enough for payments. What am I talking about? Halls of Fame – and I am pleased to announce that The Payments Hall of Fame™ is now open and ready to admit its first three inductees as part of The Innovation Project™ 2013, set for March 20-21 at Harvard University.

Here is how it will work.

Each year judges from the Innovation Project will select up to three individuals who have had a profound impact on the sprawling industry that facilitates commerce around the world. We’ll look for people who through a giant leap, or many small steps, over their career, have helped transform the course of the broad payments industry. I’m chairing the selection committee this year.

Inductees will be selected based on their impact to payments — regardless of whether that came through technologies, products, business models, or other innovations. To be sure, we are identifying people with long lasting impact so their contributions for consideration for the award must have taken place more than ten years ago. And they have to be still alive (so if you think you could make the cut, eat right, exercise and hang in there!). We will announce the inductees for 2013 at the PYMNTS Award Dinner on the evening of March 21, 2013 at Harvard University.

Why the Payments Hall of Fame™ and why now?  Well, it’s easy to forget that today’s payments innovators are standing on the shoulders of giants. Some, unfortunately, aren’t with us anymore. But, these innovators will give you an idea of the sorts of people we’re looking for.

There’s Frank McNamara who realized the demand for a charge card that consumers could use at many different merchants. Who’s to know whether McNamara was the first with this idea? He gets the credit — rightfully — because he had an impact: McNamara launched Diners Club in 1950 and from that seed everything else has grown.

Then there’s Joseph Williams who designed and help launched the first successful credit general-purpose card. That was for Bank of America in 1958. It was from that seed that Visa sprouted. It wasn’t the first credit card by any means and that’s the point. Hundreds of bank credit card programs had failed in that decade. Williams had an enormous impact because he figured out the right product features and how to ignite the business.

And there’s Forrest Parry who invented the magstripe card in 1960. This seems like such antiquated technology now but it helped drive the massive worldwide expansion of this industry for many decades and sustains it today. It’s also the curse of many of today’s innovators who know that it is tough to beat the fast swipe at checkout his invention made possible.

While these are truly some of the giants of the industry, there are many more who have played critical roles in building the industry today.


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