American Express Swipes Neal Sample From eBay for Digital Payments Push

American Express has lured Neal Sample away from eBay to become SVP of technologies for its digital payments initiative.

Called Serve, it is competing head-on with eBay’s own PayPal, as American Express attempts to expand its audience beyond briefcase-toting corporate users.

At eBay, Sample was the CTO of X.commerce, the open commerce platform the company unveiled late last year that gives technology tools to retailers at no cost. Prior to eBay, Sample was a senior executive at Yahoo, where he led the open, social and participation platforms. He left Yahoo in August 2010.

Sample’s technical expertise is focused on developing and building platforms and products for emerging technologies.

Serve is a complex platform that allows consumers to make purchases, take cash withdrawals from ATMs and make person-to-person payments from their computer or their phone.

The offering is fairly complex because it can be funded by a user’s bank account or credit or debit card — even from one of the company’s major competitors, like Visa or MasterCard.

In the future, American Express envisions expanding the platform to mobile phones, using near field communication or other technology.

Given eBay and PayPal’s extensive knowledge in the digital payments arena, many of its executives have left the company to explore the endless number of opportunities sprouting up.

Recently, Alyssa Cutright, a 12-year veteran of PayPal, left to join Square, a payments company in San Francisco; and of course, PayPal President Scott Thompson left at the end of last year to join Yahoo as CEO. Last week, eBay named David Marcus as his replacement.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik