Affinity Marketing Professionals
The Kessler Group management team comprises seasoned marketing consultants and financial services professionals with over 200 years of collective experience who are relentless in their pursuit of results and driven to structure win-win programs for Kessler clients and partners.
Founder & Chairman
A leading innovator in the financial services industry and a consummate dealmaker, Howard Kessler pioneered the concept of the affinity credit card with MBNA in 1982. Mr. Kessler has spent the ensuing decades building businesses focused on delivering win-win solutions to the most critical problems faced by senior executives in retail financial services.
Deals and partnership programs created by Mr. Kessler have literally reshaped the landscape of the payments industry— resulting in the creation of billions of dollars in value for shareholders. Mr. Kessler has been at the forefront of innovation in credit cards and has developed concepts and techniques that have been exported to financial services firms around the world.
As a lifelong entrepreneur, Mr. Kessler excels in the relentless pursuit of out-of-the-box answers to intractable problems, especially in deal making and in the crafting of alternative solutions in “workout” situations. This unique combination of tenacity and creativity has made him a trusted advisor to the most senior leaders in the fields of politics and financial services, and these relationships give him unparalleled insight into the strategic objectives and needs of major financial institutions.
Mr. Kessler and his wife, Michele, are active philanthropists supporting a wide range of national and global causes, such as the William J. Clinton Foundation, the American Red Cross, the American Ireland Fund, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Prince of Wales Trust and Partners HealthCare, a not-for-profit, integrated healthcare system founded by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Mr. Kessler has been the recipient of numerous public service awards, including the United Way Emerging Corporate Philanthropist Award, the Red Cross Lifetime Achievement Award, the Palm Beach Police Foundation Award for Community Service and the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Award for entrepreneurs who have made a significant difference in the lives of children. He is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Carl Rutstein works closely with the Chairman and CEO, Howard Kessler, and the senior leadership team to add new strategic opportunities to the Company’s business. He will be playing a major role in the oversight of day to day operations of the Company and his leadership and experience will help lead the company toward future success.
Mr. Rutstein brings over 25 years of deep, relevant experience, most recently holding the position of Senior Partner and Managing Director of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). His role included leading the North American Payment Practice as well as Private Equity efforts in the Midwest and Canada, Financial Institutions Strategy Practice globally and alumni relations in North America. At BCG, he worked closely with all the major banks in the U.S. and Canada, payment networks and acquirers. In his role as President, he will continue this work in advancing Kessler’s relationships and reputation as a leader in the Financial Services and marketing fields.
Mr. Rutstein sits on the Board of Trustees of the Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago and is a member of Economic Club of Chicago. He holds an MBA with High Distinction in Analytical Finance from the University of Chicago, and he holds a BS in Economics from the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. Prior to his work at BCG, he worked in investment banking at Salomon Brothers.
Vice Chairman & Chief Administrative Officer
Ray Fischer joined The Kessler Group in 2014 as Vice Chairman and Chief Administrative Officer after a long and successful banking career at JPMorgan Chase. Mr. Fischer is responsible for further developing the company’s network and issuing bank relationships, as well as building the team and capabilities to maximize new and existing opportunities. Mr. Fischer will work closely with Chairman and CEO Howard Kessler as a strategic thought partner with deep insight into all aspects of the card and payments industry.
Prior to joining The Kessler Group, Mr. Fischer was Chief Administrative Officer of Chase Commerce Solutions and was instrumental in creating Chase’s partnership with Visa and the creation of ChaseNet, the “closed loop” processing platform for Chase-issued credit and debit cards. Previously, for more than a decade, Mr. Fischer served as Chief Financial Officer of Chase Card Services, the firm’s credit card subsidiary.
Mr. Fischer is a certified public accountant with more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Prior to working for Chase, he held a number of senior leadership roles at Discover Card, Commercial Credit Company, Primerica Group, Travelers Group and CitiFinancial.
Mr. Fischer graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Baltimore with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting.
Managing Director, International
Keryn Brunner, managing director of Kessler Financial Services International, joined The Kessler Group in September 1998 to manage the company’s business in Australia. In that role, Ms. Brunner positioned The Kessler Group as the leader in Australia’s affinity market and spearheaded the company’s efforts to build partnerships and professional affinities and to structure retail financial service deals. In 2009, the Australian business further expanded to intermediating consumer debt sales in the Australian market.
Prior to joining The Kessler Group, Ms. Brunner spent a year working on co-brands and product development for MasterCard International in Australia and five years leading global marketing initiatives for MasterCard International in the US. Before joining MasterCard, Ms. Brunner worked for five years at Ernst & Young in Wellington, New Zealand, and Sydney, in both marketing and auditing roles.
Ms. Brunner has a Master of Commerce from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and a Bachelor of Business Studies (Marketing and Accounting) from Massey University, New Zealand. She has completed a negotiation course with Harvard Business School Executive Education.
Managing Director, Kessler Capital
Kurt Campisano heads Kessler Capital, where he invests in the growth of Kessler’s clients by funding at-risk marketing programs and making other capital investments. An integral contributor to Kessler Capital Holding’s development, Mr. Campisano played a key role in several of Kessler Capital’s initial investments while in his previous position as chief development officer of Epic Research, where he was also co-founder.
Before working at Epic, Mr. Campisano was managing director of Corporate Development at Barclaycard US and served as managing director of Barclaycard’s UK Partnerships business. He was a member of the management team that built and grew Juniper prior to its sale to Barclays. Mr. Campisano also served as senior vice president of Internet Marketing and Business Development at First USA (now Chase Card Services) and was a member of the founding team that launched WingspanBank.com, a Bank One company. Mr. Campisano has held a variety of other positions within and outside of the financial services industry, including as CEO of an early-stage Walker Digital business and senior roles at Marsh and Verizon.
Mr. Campisano holds a BS in Computer Science from The Pennsylvania State University.
Chief of Staff
As Chief of Staff, Yi-Hsin Chang works closely with Chairman and CEO Howard Kessler on all major deals, projects, and corporate initiatives. She collaborates with the M&A Team on strategy and major M&A transactions, and partners with the rest of the executive management team on strategies involving the firm’s major clients.
Prior to joining The Kessler Group in 2010, Ms. Chang worked as a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Company in New York, and subsequently helped turn around two companies: The Hanover Insurance Group, a property and casualty insurance company based in Worcester, MA, and DTN, an information services company based in Omaha, NE. Ms. Chang began her career as a business reporter and writer, working for The Wall Street Journal and The Motley Fool.
Ms. Chang holds a BA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead Scholar, and an MBA from NYU Stern.
Managing Director, Business Development
Dax Cummings has a deep level of expertise in partnerships across business development, endorsed program management, and growth strategies, leading The Kessler Group’s efforts with key clients.
Mr. Cummings joined Kessler in 2011 after spending the previous five years as a founder and COO of Revolution Money, a payments company that was sold to American Express. Prior to founding Revolution Money, Mr. Cummings spent 14 years at MBNA serving as Division President and senior executive vice president of the key US Endorsed business, where he led the company’s 5,500 endorsing groups and $65 billion endorsed consumer loan portfolio. In addition, Mr. Cummings held management positions leading MBNA’s regional offices, several business sectors, and the company’s new account activation efforts.
Mr. Cummings currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Potomac School and the Advisory Board for the Connelly Center for Entrepreneurship at Washington and Lee University. Mr. Cummings holds a BA in Politics from Washington and Lee University. He lives in McLean, Virginia with his wife and two children.
Senior Executive Vice President, Strategy
Carl Erickson is responsible for corporate-wide strategic planning and improving The Kessler Group’s prioritization and resource allocation processes. He also works closely with Mr. Kessler and the management team to grow the current client and key group relationships. This work includes coordinating and leading projects including Kessler’s go-to-market approach with affinity groups to develop new channels and improve card value propositions.
Mr. Erickson rejoined Kessler in 2013 following eight years with Exchange Solutions, Inc., where he managed the Retail Banking Practice focused on helping create and deploy a proprietary web-based technology platform to help banks deepen their customer relationships. Under his leadership, the solution was deployed in 22 countries and was contributing over $1.7 billion in annual incremental bank balances across all consumer banking products. Prior to Exchange Solutions, Mr. Erickson worked at Kessler for eight years in both Corporate Development and Marketing roles where he helped grow both the breadth of marketing services and the clients served. Mr. Erickson’s additional experience includes performing corporate planning and market analysis at MasterCard and consulting to large banks at Booz|Allen|Hamilton.
Mr. Erickson holds an MBA in Finance and Accounting from Columbia Business School and a BS in International Finance from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Leveraging his expertise in deal structuring, securitization and valuation, Sanji Gunawardena manages the execution of portfolio transactions and whole business transactions globally.
Mr. Gunawardena has over 15 years of extensive mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning, and capital market experience. Prior to joining Kessler, he headed the Bank of America Credit Card Mergers & Acquisition team, where he conducted over $6 billion in credit card transactions, including structuring the credit card joint venture between China Construction Bank and Bank of America.
Mr. Gunawardena holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
Chris O’Brien is a Senior Advisor to The Kessler Group. Previously, he served as COO of the Kessler Group and leader of the Partnership Solutions practice. In that capacity, he was responsible for managing major affinity partnerships and government relations, overseeing general partnership structures, managing workouts, and leading regulatory and legislative strategy.
Mr. O’Brien joined Kessler in 2006 after having spent a number of years in the travel business, most recently with the Smithsonian Institution, where he was president of the Travel and Affinity Group. Prior to that, he was at EF Education, where he was president of the Go Ahead Vacations business and president of EF Latin America. Mr. O’Brien holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth College.
Senior Executive Vice President
Felix Riccio works closely with Howard Kessler and other management team members on projects strategic to the Kessler Group and actively supports the Kessler M&A team with strategic analysis, acquisitions and divestitures for its financial services clients.
Mr. Riccio rejoined Kessler in 2014 following 12 years as Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and a member of the Chairman’s Committee for Trans National Group Services (TNGS), a Boston-based direct response and investment company. At TNGS, Mr. Riccio oversaw the corporate development activities of several TNGS operating companies and served on the Board of Directors of two professional sports teams in which TNGS’s chairman had invested. Prior to TNGS, Mr. Riccio worked at Kessler as Vice President of Corporate Development, focusing his efforts on identifying, evaluating and executing new business opportunities (including the formation of an independent Internet company to service affinity groups). Earlier in his career, Mr. Riccio practiced corporate law at Goodwin Procter and was an investment banker at Morgan Stanley.
Mr. Riccio holds an AB degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and a JD degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.
Managing Director, Corporate Development & Special Projects
Responsible for a range of corporate-wide projects, Scott Shaw develops and manages new financial service partnerships and annuity income streams by extending client capabilities into new areas such as consumer loans, mobile payments, enhancement services, risk syndication, etc. He is also responsible for helping drive complex workout situations with Howard Kessler and the Kessler M&A team.
Mr. Shaw joined The Kessler Group in 1990 and was instrumental in helping Howard Kessler purchase its predecessor company and create strategic partnerships in the credit card, telecom, payment and consumer finance businesses. After a year spent as president of Aliaswire, an emerging payments company in Cambridge, MA, Mr. Shaw rejoined Kessler in October 2010.
Mr. Shaw holds a BS in Biochemistry from the University of New Hampshire.
From February 2010 to May 2013, Mr. Slawsky was Managing Director of The Kessler Group’s Marketing & Consulting Solutions practice. Prior to that, Mr. Slawsky was the founder and principal of the independent consulting firm J. Slawsky & Associates, Inc., where he advised financial services organizations and technology companies around the globe on business strategy, product development, operations and other matters. From 1980 to 2000, Mr. Slawsky held positions of increasing responsibility in the financial services industry in such notable institutions as Partners First (a joint venture credit card company of Bank of Boston, Bank of Montreal and First Annapolis Consulting), Bank of Boston, Bank One and HSBC Bank (USA). He specialized in retail financial service products, with particular emphasis on credit cards.
Mr. Slawsky holds a BS in Marketing Management from the State University of New York at Buffalo (1980). In addition, he is a 1987 graduate of the Consumer Bankers Association Graduate School of Retail Bank Management at the University of Virginia. Mr. Slawsky is a frequent speaker at industry events and also the author of the book The Bank Card Business: Today and Tomorrow published by the American Bankers Association in May 2003, and co-author of the book Managing a Successful Payments Card Business published by Gower Publishing (London) in November 2005. He is currently an instructor with VISA Europe International Bankcard Business School (Cambridge, UK) and VISA Inc. Bank Card Management Schools.
Senior Executive Vice President & Managing Director, Mergers & Acquisitions Advisory Solutions
Responsible for The Kessler Group’s North American Mergers & Acquisitions business, David Smith assists clients with strategic analysis, acquisitions and divestitures. Mr. Smith brings deep expertise in the payments industry to his role, having spent 10 years at First Annapolis Consulting, where he co-managed the firm’s card-issuing practice - its largest and most successful practice area - and worked with leading financial institutions around the world.
While at First Annapolis, Mr. Smith developed comprehensive re-entry strategies for banks with diverse capabilities and outsourcing needs. He was closely involved in all stages of the entry process, from directing RFPs for processing and negotiating contracts to overseeing marketing collateral and direct mail campaigns. During his tenure at First Annapolis, he also assisted in some of the highest-profile M&A transactions of the last decade, including Sony Corporation’s $1.2 billion portfolio sale to Chase Card Services.
Prior to his work at First Annapolis, Mr. Smith was director of finance at Commercial Credit. He was also head of Strategic Planning at Travelers Bank.
Mr. Smith holds an undergraduate degree from Duke University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. He serves on the board of Partners First.
Chief Financial Officer
As CFO, Frank Spellman oversees all of The Kessler Group’s finance and accounting functions for the company worldwide, including financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, cash management, expense and allocation policy, and expense controls and procedures. Mr. Spellman works with client managers to develop shared financial models built on aligned interests and helps manage the risk profile of Kessler’s capital investments.
Mr. Spellman joined the company upon his graduation from Babson College’s MBA program in 1997. Before joining Kessler, he worked for several years in commercial credit and lending at Fleet Bank.
In addition to his Babson MBA, Mr. Spellman holds a BA in Economics from the College of the Holy Cross.
President, Financial Institutions Group
Al Tringali is president of Kessler’s Financial Institutions Group (KFI), a key business development role that delivers products and services to the banking sector. Major activities include card portfolio acquisitions, agent bank card programs and merchant processing portfolio acquisitions. Since joining the company in 1988, Mr. Tringali has overseen the creation of over 1,000 partnerships for The Kessler Group’s clients, applying more than 25 years of experience in the payments industry to his responsibilities in development, sales approach consulting, valuation analysis and the negotiation of acquisition prices.
Prior to joining the company, Mr. Tringali held executive positions at First Data Resources and Bank of New England. Mr. Tringali holds a BS from Salem State College.
Patrick Aylmer manages partner-side engagements for The Kessler Group’s Mergers & Acquisitions team and has assisted several banks reentering the credit card market. Mr. Aylmer brings expertise in RFP management, contract restructuring and negotiations, and portfolio sales. During his tenure, he has worked on a host of successful client engagements in the retail, financial institution, occupational, college and university, professional sports, and not-for-profit sectors.
Mr. Aylmer joined the company in 2002 from Staples, where he was the managing director of Credit Marketing, overseeing the company’s domestic and international credit card and loyalty programs. He also developed Staples’ retail, online and catalog payments strategies, including association interchange negotiations.
Mr. Aylmer holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MBA from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.
Bob Curry is responsible for consumer credit card loan portfolio acquisition and investment bank activities for The Kessler Group, including business planning and financial analysis. Mr. Curry joined the company in May 2001 from Citigroup, where he led business development and credit card acquisition activities. He has completed over $50 billion in consumer credit acquisitions and is an accomplished and recognized consumer portfolio valuation expert.
Mr. Curry holds a BE in Mechanical Engineering from Manhattan College and an MBA in Finance from Long Island University. He is a member of the Society of Financial Service Professionals and the Greater Boston Bankers Association, among other associations.
Todd DaCosta is the national sales manager for all business development and acquisition activities in the financial institution marketplace of The Kessler Group. An expert on card issuing and merchant portfolios, Mr. DaCosta identifies partnership and acquisition opportunities and facilitates sales, deal strategies and contract negotiations. He joined the company in 1988 and has 19 years of experience in the credit card business. Prior to joining the company, Mr. DaCosta was employed at First Data Resources.
Mr. DaCosta holds a BSBA from Nichols College.
Greg Fisher leads The Kessler Group’s new business development efforts, contributing expertise in insurance, risk syndication and nonprime credit card program growth (organic and through acquisition). After working with The Kessler Group from 1996 to 2000, Mr. Fisher left the firm to start an Internet marketing company, Vizium, where he served as director of Marketing. The company grew to 25 marketing and technical consultants before being sold to the largest independent media conglomerate in Europe. In 2003, Mr. Fisher returned to Kessler to lead the Alternative Channels department.
Prior to Mr. Fisher’s first stint at Kessler, he worked in Moscow for two years at a USAID-funded investment firm that had been founded to help medium-sized Russian businesses transition to a free-market economy. Mr. Fisher is proficient in Russian.
Mr. Fisher has a BA from the College of the Holy Cross and an MBA from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. He serves as treasurer on the Board of Trustees at Kingsley Montessori School in Boston.
Sandi Goodman-Brown has more than 20 years of experience in customer-driven database marketing across a wide variety of retail and consumer lending products, with special expertise in predictive modeling, segmentation and cross channel financial portfolio analyses. Since joining Kessler in 1995, she has managed Kessler’s analytics group, with responsibility for translating customer response, usage and portfolio data into actionable insights that raise response rates, generate incremental growth and increase customer lifetime value.
Prior to joining Kessler, Mrs. Goodman-Brown worked in the Corporate Strategic Planning and Development group at JPMorgan Chase and for GE Capital Corporate Finance Group.
Mrs. Goodman-Brown has an undergraduate degree in Finance from Boston College and attended New York University’s MBA program.
A veteran of The Kessler Group, having come aboard in 1997, Kevin Mulligan is responsible for all portfolio acquisition activity for the community financial institution market. An expert in relationship management, business development, negotiation and strategy, Mr. Mulligan crafts agent card partnerships with strategic advantages for financial institutions and superior consumer value for their customers/members. He brings over 20 years of credit card experience to his position.
Prior to joining the company, Mr. Mulligan spent two years with First Data and four years with Bay Bank, now a part of Bank of America.
Mr. Mulligan holds a BS in Economics and Finance from Bentley College.
An accomplished marketing executive with over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry, Andrea Perry’s expertise spans across all product lines with a focus on credit card marketing (B2B and B2C), retail banking and payment networks.
Prior to joining Kessler, Ms. Perry held a senior leadership position at MasterCard, serving as Account Lead for Wells Fargo, Chase Card Services, First National Bank of Omaha, M&T Bank, TD Bank, and Deutsche Bank. Prior to MasterCard, Ms. Perry had 16 years of marketing experience at Advanta, Bank One and Sparks State Bank.
Ms. Perry holds an MS in Business Management from Johns Hopkins University and a BS in Marketing from Kutztown University.
George Tsiklauri joined the Kessler Group in 2014 and currently manages the execution of portfolio transactions as part of our M&A advisory team.
Previously, Mr. Tsiklauri was a Vice President in the Financial Institutions Group within Goldman Sachs’ Investment Banking Division. During his tenure at Goldman, he worked with leading financial institutions in the banking, insurance and specialty finance sectors in the U.S., Europe and Latin America, helping them execute M&A and capital markets transactions and assisting them in various other strategic processes.
Prior to Goldman, Mr. Tsiklauri spent four years at KPMG in the firm’s M&A Tax and Fiduciary practices. He holds an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
Joel Turner works in Kessler Capital, making investments into Kessler’s clients by funding at-risk marketing programs and other capital investments. Mr. Turner has worked in various financial roles throughout the Kessler Group since 1999. He is a sought after financial consultant for Kessler’s clients, providing financial modeling and analytical support to help clients identify and implement optimal strategies in attracting and acquiring new business.
Mr. Turner holds a BS in Finance and Marketing from Syracuse University and an MBA from Babson College.
Since joining The Kessler Group in 1996, Steve Webb has been instrumental in building and managing key accounting and control functions, including cash flow maximization, general ledger reporting, international consolidations, overhead tracking and review, and the implementation of accounting and information technology policies and procedures for all company entities. Mr. Webb also manages the day-to-day operations of The Kessler Group’s accounting and IT departments.
Prior to joining the company, Mr. Webb worked for nearly five years in the audit practice of KPMG Peat Marwick, becoming a Certified Public Accountant in 1994. Mr. Webb holds a BA from the College of the Holy Cross and an MS/MBA from Northeastern University.