Charles Scharf

Charles Scharf
CHARLES SCHARF, CEO OF VISA, INC. ALIX COLOW. PICK UP. AP Photo/Richard Drew)Photograph by Richard Drew — AP
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The use of mobile phones has dramatically changed the way consumers shop and pay. Companies that grasp this can cash in big in developing countries, where money is often moved via prepaid cellphones. After becoming CEO in 2012, Scharf’s many visits to startups led to the launch of Visa Digital Solutions, an initiative that provides APIs (essentially, tools to build software) to outside developers and encourages innovation and collaboration. Scharf also oversaw the introduction of a digital wallet, Checkout. Scharf has jumped into emerging markets, overseeing Visa’s newly opened tech development center in Bangalore, India, which will play a vital role in expanding the company’s reach. Scharf has pushed for partnerships with mobile networks such as Telenor in Pakistan to link Visa with mobile phones. This summer, the company will launch a new mobile payment service, mVisa, with 20,000 merchants in Bangalore and in partnership with Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, and SBI (State Bank of India). Meanwhile, Scharf has improved Visa’s relations with card-issuing banks in its older markets and kept right on churning out profits: $6.3 billion of them in the past 12 months (compared to $4.9 billion two years ago).