MasterCard International is cranking up its debit machine in the North American market. MasterCard says the next 24 months promise to be the most significant period in the history of U.S. debit. Financial institutions that represent 50% of debit players will be making critical brand and technology decisions. Therefore MasterCard is leveraging its portfolio of debit brands, including MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro, and has formed a new team of North American financial industry execute the debit drive. MasterCard recently appointed Thomas Sladowski, Lori Skrobola, and Jerry Sargent, to lead the effort. Sladowski has been named VP and product manager for Cirrus, previously, he was SVP of ATM Channel/Debit Cards at Chase. Skrobola joins MasterCard as vice president and general manager for the Debit Card Marketing Group and will drive cardholder activation and usage through innovative card marketing initiatives. Previously, she was an executive director for CIBC Oppenheimer, responsible for marketing communications. Jerry Sargent, has been named VP, Debit Strategy and Alliance Development. Sargent, who previously was debit product manager, will take on an expanded role of identifying strategic partners and managing alliances for debit. Debit continues to be the fastest growing payment card industry, growing at twice the pace of credit. North America is the world’s largest consumer payments opportunity, accounting for $5.5 trillion in total volume and $400 billion in debit transactions. Analysts project strong debit growth for issuers averaging gains of 20% online and 15% offline in 2002-2003. At the end of the second quarter MasterCard had 42.8 million off-line debit cards in-force compared to VISA’s 122.6 million, according to CardData ([www.carddata.com]).