SAN ANTONIO — Phil Schwartz, a decorated U.S. Air Force veteran and long-time Valero executive, is the winner of the 2015 Convenience Store News Technology Executive of the Year award.
This annual award honors a convenience store industry executive who demonstrates vision and innovation, and leads the way for his/her company and the industry to take full advantage of technology solutions.
“The award is tremendously unexpected. I can’t believe it,” said Schwartz, manager of I/S credit card systems POS app support for Valero Payment Services Co. “I am truly humbled. I look at others who have been honored with this award and say ‘wow.’”
Schwartz joined the c-store industry after retiring from the Air Force, where he spent 17 years in the service. He was hired by National Convenience Stores as a store manager trainee. The week after Schwartz went to work for National Convenience Stores, the company was acquired by Diamond Shamrock, which later merged with Valero.
Schwartz finished his training and became certified as a store manager, but fate had different plans for him. “Diamond Shamrock decided they wanted to roll out a new, integrated computer point-of-sale system,” he recalled. “I was given the choice to be one of eight trainers for that, or be one of 260 store managers in the San Antonio area. I didn’t think it was a difficult choice. Within a week, I was the lead trainer for San Antonio. Within a year, I was on the corporate staff working on store automation.”
That’s when technology officially became Schwartz’s vocation.
He moved into his current role in 2007. Valero decided to reorganize its retail division, but because the company valued Schwartz’s stellar work and didn’t want to lose the knowledge he had, it found another place for him, which was credit card processing. He has been in this role since.
“I work with point-of-sale vendors. I work with communication providers we allow on our network, and I work with First Data, which is our acquirer on the front end of the credit process,” he said. “So I’m involved with EMV [Europay, MasterCard and Visa] and PCI [payment card industry] compliance.”
After eight years in his current role, Schwartz is most fascinated by how much technology has advanced. “Today, your phone is your computer,” he stated. “I saw something recently that said your Apple iPhone 6 has more computing power than what we used to land on the moon in 1969. Even your car is ‘smart’ today as it talks to your phone. Most of these advancements have taken place in the past eight years.”
In addition to his outstanding work at Valero, Schwartz is also being honored with the CSNews Technology Executive of the Year award for his contributions to Conexxus, formerly known as PCATS. The trade group addresses technology standards to improve business processes, reduce costs and increase productivity for the convenience and fuel retailing industry.
Schwartz, who plans to retire for good in March, will be honored at the upcoming CSNews Fuels & Tech Summit, taking place Dec. 7-8 in Riviera Beach, Fla.