Spending six years developing a European-wide payments platform\u00ad with \u20ac0.5bn to spend and an 800-plus strong development team is a big, complicated job, but it hardly calls for a rocket scientist, does it? Even if it did, that would be no problem for Visa Eur\u00adope CIO Steve Chambers: he is one.\nI interviewed him in a room on the ninth floor of Visa Europe\u2019s headquarters in London\u2019s newly-built Paddington commercial campus. Marks & Spencer and Kingfisher \u2013 big indirect Visa customers \u2013 are neighbours. From that height, a good part of West London is visible and it\u2019s a suitable backdrop for our discussion of the very future of cash and paying for things anywhere in Europe.\nChambers isn\u2019t a large man, but he has a big presence. This Geordie has a prize-fighter\u2019s demeanour and it\u2019s easy to imagine people going out of their way to avoid seeing him angry. This is borne out by his assumptions on why he was chosen to head up such a mammoth task.\n\u201cI\u2019m not shy,\u201d he says. \u201cVisa Europe is a very collaborative, consensus-driven organisation, but when you get into execute mode, you have to transform into a command and control approach.\u201d\nDon\u2019t be fooled into thinking Chambers is all about brute force though. He\u2019s as adept at the subtleties of corporate politics as any other blue-chip business leader.\nChambers was brought into Visa Europe\u00ad at the payment system\u2019s inception six years ago. The company was responding to its European member banks\u2019 demands for a durable and compliant authorisation, clearing and settlement system for the 21st Century. The system had to adapt to cardholders\u2019 increase in usage and pave the way for new business lines \u2013 factors that presented a constantly moving target to Chambers and his team.\n\u201cThere are new product offerings, more service offerings, six-monthly releases into the payment universe. Development [on the new system] had to be in synch with the existing Visa platform, which is constantly in motion,\u201d Chambers says.\n\nThe stakes were high and failure to del\u00adiver would damage the company\u2019s brand ambitions to be the most trusted currency in Europe.\n\u201cWhen you go shopping, you expect the result to be a swift conclusion. You \u00adexpect to make the payment and it\u2019s going to work,\u201d says Chambers. \u201cIt\u2019s an event if it doesn\u2019t work. You trust the experience will be painless.\u201d\nThe system sits between the card-acquiring banks and the card-issuing banks. It\u2019s the hub through which one euro in eight spent in Europe passes every day.\n\u201cThe most extreme test is at Christmas, when you\u2019re looking at about 1000 transactions a second across Europe. When I talk to my team, I constantly remind them of how crucial their work is.\u201d\nChambers built his development team almost from the ground up, because the company was going through a split from its American operations at the time. He had to build the company\u2019s IT organisation alongside building the system.\nHere Chambers\u2019 political nous shows through. He admits it would have been a mistake to go in with a completely new team, so chose to balance new joiners with existing staff. But 25 years in the payments space meant he didn\u2019t find it hard to fill critical roles from outside if he needed to.\nThe same diplomacy had to be extended\u00ad to the payment system\u2019s stakeholders and Chambers and his team leaders stayed in constant communication with their Visa Inc counterparts in the US.\nEven more important was keeping mem\u00adber banks happy, all of whom are sensitive to this change in the way Visa delivers payment services.\n\u201cThe first step was to get communication\u00ad channels open. I set up a member workgroup who were kept in the loop at all times and whose job it was to approve milestone deliverables on behalf of the member banks,\u201d Chambers explains.