Olympia, WA

Local Banker and Credit Card Visionary From Washington State Dies At 93

Bryan Dijkhuizen

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On July 16, Dee Hock, a banker with a junior college degree who helped mold the Visa credit card into a worldwide financial behemoth, passed away at his home in Olympia, Washington.

He was responsible for shaping the company into a global financial behemoth.

He was 93.

Hock was appointed to head the credit card department of the National Bank of Commerce in Seattle in 1966. At the time, the bank had been granted a license by Bank of America to issue its Bank Americard credit card.

At the time, the credit card company was in an early and turbulent period of growth.

During that time period, the company struggled under the weight of unpaid bills and instances of fraud, and the cards themselves were archaic:

They did not have the magnetic stripes that would later be used to encode customer information; transactions that required bank authorizations took a significant amount of time; and the embossed information on them (customer name, card number, and expiration date) had to be copied awkwardly onto receipts using a cumbersome imprinter.

“By 1968, I was extremely concerned that the industry may go under and our bank’s investment with it,” Hock told Plazm, an arts and politics magazine based in Portland, Oregon, in 2013. “I was attending a meeting of all of the licensees of BofA, which soon became a shambles of argument and accusations.”
“Dee Hock realized something in the late 1960s that few others really understood: Computers and telecommunications would soon make it possible to build a global ‘electronic value exchange’ system that would soon enable customers to pay for goods and services ‘anywhere you want to be,’” David Stearns, the author of “Electronic Value Exchange: Origins of the VISA Electronic Payment System” (2011), wrote in an email. (The company renders its name in all capital letters.)

Alfred Kelly Jr., the chief executive officer of Visa, penned a tribute to Hock in which he stated that Hock had a vision of "a world of frictionless commerce" in which "anyone, anywhere could exchange value 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with absolute reliability." Kelly Jr. wrote these words in Hock's honor.

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