This is the first article in my regular column “If I Were CEO” where I look at various companies and give feedback on what the company is doing right, doing wrong, and what could be done better. Instead of complaining about a company, like most people do, in this column I will propose solutions and ideas as if I were the CEO of the company.
The first company I am going to look at is JCB USA.
JCB (Japan Credit Bureau) was founded in 1961, and, until recently, was the only major international payment processing network based in Asia. JCB International Credit Card Co., Ltd. is the United States subsidiary which issues JCB cards in the United States. It’s main competitors are Visa, MasterCard, Discover Network, American Express and China UnionPay. According to their website, over 59 million JCB branded cards have been issued, and the JCB card is accepted in 190 countries at over 14 million merchants, not including merchants on the Discover Network in the United States which also accept the JCB card due to an alliance with the Discover Network.
What would I do if I were CEO:
First of all, I would continue the international expansion program that JCB has initiated in countries around the world, increasing acceptance. The alliance with Discover Network gives JCB a huge merchant network in the United States. Effective November 1, 2007, all Discover Network merchants must accept JCB cards, instantly giving JCB millions of U.S. merchants that now accept the JCB card. In return, sometime in 2008, Discover Network cards will be accepted in Japan anywhere JCB is accepted. This was a smart move, and in some ways a coup, where JCB expands in the U.S. market pretty much overnight.
One of the biggest issues that JCB faces, especially in the United States, is brand recognition. Most people have simply never heard of JCB. To address that issue I would do the following:
- I would encourage Discover Network to change the decals that it provides its merchants to show the JCB logo. All multi-logo decals should have JCB on it by default, and it should be the new JCB logo, not the old one that is currently on one of their decals.
- I would approach major payment processing companies in the United States and educate them on the Discover Network / JCB Alliance, and encourage them to display the JCB logo. Some of the major companies I would target include PayPal and Google Checkout. PayPal and Google Checkout both technically accept the JCB card due to the alliance with Discover Network, but neither show the JCB logo. Getting the JCB logo on PayPal, Google Checkout, and other websites would instantly expose the JCB brand to millions of U.S. consumers. I would even pay for this if I had to. The marketing value would be worth it.
- I would also approach major retailers and let them know that they now accept the JCB card, and encourage them to display the JCB logo. Discover Network is notifying its merchants that they accept the JCB Card, but I would make sure that major retailers know this right away.
- Another campaign I would initiate is visiting merchants in Chinatowns all over the United States. I would especially target Japanese related or owned businesses. Since JCB is based in Asia, many people in these communities would already be familiar with the JCB brand and may possibly have a JCB Card already. Give them free decals and encourage them to display the JCB acceptance mark.
Another issue that JCB has in the United States is card issuance. Not many people in the U.S. have a JCB Card. Some of the steps I would take to address this issue include:
- I would update the JCB USA website so that online applications can be made. Currently you have to print a PDF and mail it in. In the age of the internet, this is too slow, especially for a less-well-known credit card brand. Also, almost all of your major competing networks have banks that offer online application for a credit card. So adding online applications is vital.
- I would also approach banks that serve the Asian community in the United States and offer the ability issue JCB Cards for their customers who travel to Asia. They have access to customers who would most likely be interested in getting a JCB Card.
- I would update your JCB USA website with details of the JCB / Discover Network website, and explain to people that their JCB Card can be used anywhere in the U.S. where Discover Network is accepted. The fact that customers can use their card in the U.S. at Discover Network merchants, plus overseas at JCB merchants may make your card more appealing, especially to travelers who go between the U.S. and Asia.
- I would also add Pulse Network to JCB Cards issued in the United States, allowing cash advances at almost any ATM in the United States. I would make sure the Pulse logo is on the back of the JCB Cards and that this feature is announced on your website.
I would also take advantage of the Discover Network / JCB Alliance by educating JCB Merchants in Japan that they will accept Discover Network sometime in 2008, and I would encourage or even require them to display the Discover Network logo in addition to the JCB logo when it goes live. While on the face it may look like we are promoting a competing network (since Discover Network and JCB still compete in many world markets), it has one main benefit: to encourage U.S. tourists to use their Discover Network Card in Japan, which would be processed on JCB’s network, instead of them using their Visa or MasterCard cards.
Those are just some of the things I would do if I were CEO of JCB USA.
Overall, JCB has a huge opportunity with the Discover Network / JCB Alliance, and if they are smart, they will take full advantage of it.
That wraps it up for this edition of “If I Were CEO.” Until next time. 🙂
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