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Eli Lilly's Ex-CIO Joins MasterCard As President Of Global Technology, Operations

Roy Dunbar's combination of IT know-how, international experience, and involvement with customers seems to be the expertise MasterCard was seeking.

Steven Marlin

September 28, 2004

3 Min Read

A top executive at Eli Lilly & Co., who spent years as the pharmaceutical company's CIO, began a new job Tuesday as president of MasterCard International's global technology and operations unit. Roy Dunbar succeeds Jerry McElhatton, who's retiring after 10 years on the job.

Since January, Dunbar--a pharmacist by training--had been president of Lilly's intercontinental region, with responsibilities for company operations in Africa, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Before that, Dunbar served as Lilly's VP of IT and CIO, overseeing a staff of more than 2,700 technology pros. Named InformationWeek's Chief of the Year for 2003, Dunbar is credited with delivering a number of key IT systems that helped shorten product-development cycles, enhance knowledge management, increase productivity, and improve customer relationships. His combination of IT know-how, international experience, and involvement with customers seem to be the expertise MasterCard was seeking.

"Roy possesses a unique combination of skills and experience in technology, sales, marketing, product development, and general management--a background that will serve him well as MasterCard seeks to further leverage its technology and processing capabilities for customers around the world," MasterCard CEO Robert Selander said in announcing Dunbar's appointment.

After 14 years at Lilly, Dunbar joins MasterCard at the nexus of the shift from paper-based to electronic payments. Last year, credit and debit cards overtook cash and checks as the preferred means of in-store payments.

MasterCard last year finished a five-year, $160 million upgrade of its Banknet transaction system. As part of the upgrade, it replaced dedicated lines with a VPN, cutting costs and response times to authorize credit transactions. It switched to leasing lines from AT&T on an as-needed basis, giving the payment processor more flexibility to adjust to changes in transaction volumes. The enhanced system lets the company offer rebates in real time, giving customers incentives to use MasterCard member banks' cards.

Banknet is a peer-to-peer network that includes IBM workstations at 670 sites worldwide. It can handle peak loads that reach 18 million transaction messages an hour or 5,000 a second. The system can scale to 100 million transaction messages an hour.

Dunbar also joins a company that's been embroiled in legal troubles. MasterCard and Visa USA last year settled a multibillion-dollar lawsuit with retailers over their honor-all-cards policy, by which the retailers had to accept MasterCard and Visa's debit cards as well as their credit cards. The retailers complained that the companies' debit-card processing fees were exorbitant compared with those charged by other processing networks such as Star Systems and NYCE. Under the settlement, the card companies agreed to drop the honor-all-cards policy and pay the retailers $3 billion.

MasterCard and Visa were also on the losing end of a federal antitrust suit that accused them of conspiring to lock out competitors American Express and Discover from merchandising their cards through banks. Under a 2001 court ruling, which MasterCard is seeking to overturn in the Supreme Court, banks are free to issue Amex and Discover cards in addition to MasterCard and Visa.

Born 43 years ago in Jamaica and raised in England, Dunbar graduated from Manchester University in the United Kingdom with a degree in pharmacy. He later received a master's of business administration from Manchester Business School.

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