The Credit Union National Association's credit card unit lost $19.7 million in 1995, largely because of capital investment and a botched technology deal.

Peter Crear, interim president of the trade group, the industry's largest, declined to give a specific breakdown of Card Services' losses. But he said that the unit, which has lost its two top officers in the past four months, would be in the red again next year.

"If we were doing business as usual, we would be expecting a small loss," Mr. Crear said.

Card Services, a unit of CUNA Service Group, the association's for- profit subsidiary, services $5.5 billion of receivables and more than five million accounts.

The losses at Card Services caused CUNA Service Group to lose a net $6.8 million in 1995, according to the trade group. CUNA Services' capital slid 44%, ending the year at $8.7 million; assetes totaled $46.5 on Dec. 31.

The association was spared bigger losses by earnings of about $13 million from the subsidiary's other businesses. Also on Dec. 1, the association sold its mortgage subsidiary to CUNA Mutual Group for $13.2 million.

CUNA Service Group's success for 1996 hinges on cards.

"Cards will keep it in the black or in the red," Mr. Crear said. "It depends on what cards will do for us."

Relocation costs represented a big chunk of 1995 card-related losses, Mr. Crear said. Over the summer the unit left its home in the Madison, Wis., trade association's headquarters for a new state-of-the-art, $13 million headquarters a few miles away.

Another factor is a failed arrangement with Alltel Information Services, Little Rock. In 1994 the cards unit hired Alltel to process its accounts after the collapse of a similar contract with Banc One Financial Card Services.

Alltel was unable to deliver on schedule. Card Services was obligated to buy out its contract with the firm for between $2 million and $6 million, trade group sources said.

Mr. Crear said confidentiality agreements with Alltel prevented him from discussing the size of the buyout.

The cards unit has been a source of grief for the trade association for some time. Sources said problems there led, in part, to the October ouster of association president Ralph Swoboda.

Before Mr. Swoboda left, he fired Bradford L. Murphy, association executive vice president of fee-based services, who headed CUNA Service Group. Earlier this month, CUNA Service Group senior vice president Keith Floen quit.

Meanwhile, a capitalization plan slated for last year that was supposed to help Card Services pay for its building and fund new projects may be delayed until the third quarter of 1996.

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