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When NCR Corp. executive Joe Kniceley unexpectedly died April 26 from a massive heart attack, he left a lasting legacy in the banking and ATM industry. Over the course of his 27 years with NCR, Kniceley played a pivotal role in many key innovations, including deposit automation.
He was known by friends and colleagues as "Big Joe," and he was regarded by industry insiders as a "big thinker." Towering above the crowd at 6-feet, 5-inches, the Nitro, W.Va., was known for his booming voice - on the golf course and in the boardroom.
Kniceley, 48, was vice president for NCR's Payment and Imaging Solutions group, a part of the Dayton, Ohio-based company's Financial Solutions Division. Dubbed "the father of ImageMark," Kniceley was an avid spokesperson in the media for the passage of the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act - better known as Check 21.
Pushing Check 21
Speaking before the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2003, Kniceley said Check 21 would provide "adequate protections for consumers, financial institutions and other entities engaged in check acceptance, presentment and clearing."
"As a result," he added, "we believe that the nation's end-to-end payment systems will be much more efficient and reliable. Today, a check that is written at a grocery store or deposited at a bank may be handled more than 20 times before it reaches the bank upon which it is drawn. If the account has insufficient funds, the check has to be returned, repeating the process in reverse. This takes several days without the store owner being paid for the goods sold. This costly, error-prone, fraud-ridden process started decades ago and the reengineering and improvement of this process has not kept up with advancements in technology."
Check 21 took effect in October 2004, and banking and ATM officials say Kniceley impacted the push for the federal law, which allows banks to exchange digital check images.
Kniceley was a youth basketball coach in Dayton, Ohio.
"Joe was a very active participant in trying to move the whole Check 21 piece forward, and that included working to move check-imaging forward at the ATM and in the remote-capture space," said Ken Justice, Diebold Inc.'s vice president of product management and marketing.
In addition to attending public hearings on the topic and speaking at industry conferences, Kniceley "really educated a lot of banks about the opportunity available to them through Check 21," Justice said.
He was respected as a "visionary" and "very humble guy," said friend and industry colleague Grant Cole.
Cole, as Bank of America's senior vice president, worked closely with Kniceley on payments-systems initiatives for the bank. The two participated in numerous conference calls before their first face-to-face, but Cole said he was instantly impressed with Kniceley's "many ideas for collaboration in scenarios that provided benefit for all of the parties involved in the payments systems."
Cole said Kniceley's "enthusiasm and good nature" were "conducive to many enjoyable discussions," which ultimately helped to change the Federal Reserve's "age-old rules of check negotiation."
"While many people had parts to play in making Check 21 a reality, Joe was one of the most active and effective in moving the conversation along," Cole said.
Joe was a very active participant in trying to move the whole Check 21 piece forward, and that included working to move check-imaging forward at the ATM and in the remote-capture space.
-- Ken Justice,
While recalling a golf outing with Kniceley and other banking officials, Cole said, "I remember how he could crush that little white ball and how he would divert the attention from himself to another subject when people commented on his game. This was true of the credit he so richly deserves for having made such a positive mark on how value is transferred through the banking system right now, and even more in the future."
Known by colleagues as a dedicated husband and proud father, Kniceley often praised his wife, Tamara, as "the glue that held the family together," and he boasted about the academic and athletic accomplishments of his children: Todd, Jodi, Kaci and Alex. He also was an elated grandfather - his laptop screen displayed a picture of his youngest grandchild.
Chase Bank's Lewis Fischer said the gentle giant will be missed by many.
"He was a class act who was always focused on delivering the very best for my organization and ultimately my customer," he said. "He was passionate about his job, the changes in the industry and, most importantly, his family. I will miss his smile, laughter and gentle handshake."
NCR's Rick Furnier, who has been tapped to serve in Kniceley's position during the interim, admits that he has "mighty big shoes to fill."
"Joe was big guy - a big thinker with a big heart, a big imagination, was a big family man, worked big, played big. He always longed to hit that golf ball really big, and he'll be missed big-time," Furnier said during Kniceley's eulogy. "If you knew Joe well, you knew he was a 'glass half full' kind of guy. In fact, I can honestly say he was the most positive thinker I've ever known."