Visa Europe CIO Steve Chambers calls on IT depts to stand up for themselves

Since 2004, Visa Europe CIO Steve Chambers has devoted his efforts to building a payments system for the company to see it into the 21st Century.

There's still much to do, but for Chambers, the last six years – a sizeable chunk of time to be on one project for any CIO – does not weigh heavy. His zeal for the project and the company is unmistakable and he readily admits that he sees it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that no IT leader in their right mind would pass up.

“Six years has flashed by. I’m privileged to work for Visa. It’s a fantastic way to work for a company that has a proven role in soc­iety. The company has a high level of social and corporate responsibility in place.

“The brief I’m given to build a payments platform, it’s an opportunity that comes up once in every 10 years.”

It’s a dream for a CIO to work on a project that forms the basis of a company’s strategy for the future, he says. The ­attention that it demands from the board is absolute and makes the CIO a true business peer, not merely a service provider.

“The organisation is fully aligned to my mission and has given me the freedom and support to deliver what I’ve been asked. It doesn’t get any better than that,” he says.

And this is the space Chambers has worked to get into.

Typically for many game-changing CIOs he came into IT from a left-field start. He started working life as a science and games teacher after graduating with a deg­ree in astrophysics in 1981. After a brief spell in IT support at Commercial Union, he went back to academia to resume his studies in physics, but he found the pace as a research scientist too slow.

When he joined EDS in 1984, he moved into an area of technology that has dominated his life so far – payments. He continued on the services side of technology in a number of EDS companies, including Sema, Tandem and ACI, until he decided to move closer to in-house operations.

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