Visa CEO Charlie Scharf is trying to change the payments conversation, from reaching out to retailers—some of whom, he freely admits, “hate” Visa—to embracing mobile and cyber currency strategies, according to an extensive BusinessWeek profile published Thursday (Oct. 2).
“A 4-foot-tall robot with a video screen for a head swerves past an orange couch and bumps into the wall of a conference room. A few feet away, an engineer tests a virtual reality headset that can allow a coffee-shop owner to forecast hot-chocolate sales during a blizzard,” the story said. “This is Visa’s new outpost in San Francisco — part executive office, part design laboratory and entirely the brainchild of Charlie Scharf, Visa’s chief executive officer.”
“We have to think and act much more like a technology company than we have before,” Scharf said. “The payments world is changing. There are new entrants, new opportunities for people to get into our business and other opportunities for us to grow our business in ways that didn’t exist before.”
Scharf also spoke about cultural changes. “It was deeply embedded in the culture that we would only talk to the traditional players,” Scharf said. “When I got to the company, I learned there are a number of merchants out there that don’t just not like us. They hate us.”
The story also discussed practical security matters at Visa’s chief data center. “The company’s primary command center, at a location in the Washington area that Visa asked (BusinessWeek) not to identify, is guarded by a moat, features floors that are 4 feet (1.2 meters) thick and has enough food and water to supply 120 employees for 45 days in an emergency,” the story said. “There are four backup sources of water to cool machines the size of cars whose data are duplicated at another center. Computers track more than 70 billion transactions a year, displayed on 40-foot-wide screens.”