First Data Corp.'s card services group is promoting Paul R. Garcia to group president, effective April 25.
The Omaha-based group said it is drawing three of its business units - bank card program services, nationwide credit, and credit performance services - closer to focus on card services.
Mr. Garcia said after Wednesday's announcement that he is working on "the people side" of the business and that his major challenge will be to get to know the customer base, where he said he sees potential for growth.
"My experience lies primarily in the merchant side of the business," Mr. Garcia said, and he starts with no preconceptions. "I will contact all of our customers, both existing and prospective, and try to understand what they are looking for."
Mr. Garcia, 43, joined First Data in 1995 when it merged with First Financial Management Corp. For the past year, he has been president and chief executive officer of CES/Nabanco and president of First Financial Bank, Atlanta. He retains the bank post.
An announcement of new leadership for CES/Nabanco, which was recently renamed First Data Merchant Services, will be made shortly, the company said.
Mr. Garcia joined Chase Manhattan Bank's merchant services division as a national sales manager in 1980.
National Bancard Corp. - Nabanco - hired Mr. Garcia in 1982 as a senior vice president of sales and marketing. He was later appointed president and CEO.
Some industry consultants said that the reorganization at First Data, which is based in Hackensack, N.J., is meant to help it remain a dominant force in card and merchant processing.
James Accomando, president of Accomando Consulting Inc., Fairfield, Conn., said First Data's growth spurts have enabled the processing giant to "close the loop on the credit card business" by shutting out its competitors.
He added that the acquisitions of Card Establishment Services Inc. in 1994 and Nabanco in 1995 required changing Mr. Garcia's role within First Data.
"They have to integrate him somehow," Mr. Accomando said. "They just bought his company. Paul understands the merchant side of the business really well. He's a 'people person.' They are broadening his existing role at Nabanco."
"First Data has made a very large investment in the merchant acquiring business," said Dennis Shea, managing director of Auriemma Consulting Group Inc., Westbury, N.Y. "Paul has been president of Nabanco for a long time. He grew up in the merchant acquiring business at Chase, and then Chase spun them off to Nabanco."
One reason for the reorganization, he added, is to cater to clients who need assistance on the issuing side and on the merchant acquiring side.
Mr. Garcia will report to Walter Hoff, executive vice president of First Data Corp.
Reporting to Mr. Garcia will be:
*Bill Tulkow, 49, president of bank card program services. He joined First Data in 1995 as vice president and chief financial officer of First Data card services group.
*Dennis Cunningham, 48, president of nationwide credit. He joined the card services group last October when First Data merged with First Financial Mamagement.
*Chris Shuler, 33, vice president of credit performance services. He joined First Data in 1992, and he initiated credit performance services in 1994. He formerly reported to Mr. Cunningham.
Mr. Garcia said his major challenge will be to get to know the customer base.