In a changing of the guard, Visa International has hired First Interstate veteran Daniel R. Eitingon as second-in-command to president Edmund P. Jensen.

Mr. Eitingon, 51, was named president of Visa's products and systems development. He takes over the post Feb. 10, succeeding Wesley C. Tallman, who retired last Thursday.

The announcement came as a surprise to many industry observers who believed Mr. Tallman's stature had increased after a recent reorganization left him in charge of most key product development and technology functions.

"I have to take a look at the kind of leaders that we need based on where we are today and where we are going," said Mr. Jensen, who also is chief executive. "Dan brings a balance of technical and business backgrounds in retail banking."

Mr. Tallman, 53, was the anchor of Visa's extensive management restructuring-Visa 21-implemented in August. In it, Visa moved to a team- based approach centered on and engineered by Mr. Tallman's products and systems group.

"Wes has left his mark, not only on Visa, but on the industry. He simply deserves the credit for Visa's success as the No. 1 issuer of debit cards," said Mr. Jensen.

Mr. Eitingon will pick up the reins to enhance and develop strategies for debit products and chip cards, Visa said. He is also expected to lead the San Francisco-based association in technology initiatives, while strengthening the Visa brand.

Mr. Eitingon was most recently an executive vice president and bank technology chief of First Interstate Bancorp. He has been a consultant since March after declining a position with Wells Fargo & Co., which acquired the Los Angeles-based bank.

In an interview last week Mr. Tallman said Visa 21 "wasn't a big departure from Visa's previous strategy, but merely clarified some roles and responsibilities," .

Mr. Tallman said Visa's direction since last fall had been good, but he had "put a lot of miles" into the organization and "'wanted to spend more time with his family."

Consultant Stephen P. White said Mr. Tallman's retirement came as a surprise.

"Having worked with Wes in the past, I knew he had a vision of where he wanted to take Visa internationally, and I believe that there were additional things that he wanted to do," said Mr. White, chief executive officer of White Consultancy in Atlanta.

Mr. Tallman "is well thought of by Visa and by member banks, so I don't think that Visa is thinking of changing its strategy," said Mr. White.

Peter Gustafson, who at one time reported to Mr. Tallman and was a key figure in Visa's debit card organization, gave notice two weeks ago of his resignation. Mr. Gustafson said he will take advantage of an opportunity with a financial institution in the coming weeks.

A successor to Mr. Gustafson, who will officially depart on Feb. 14, is to be appointed by Mr. Eitingon.

"I've been with Visa close to 17 years, and although I picked up additional responsibilities with the Visa 21 project, I felt that I needed to know what else was going on in the marketplace to make sure that I hadn't gone to sleep," said Mr. Gustafson, who is 46.

After Visa 21, Mr. Gustafson reported to product development chief Francois Dutray, who in turn reported to Mr. Tallman.

"My hope is that (Visa) would stay the course and not abandon this approach," Mr. Gustafson said.

These are just the latest in a string of Visa departures that have surprised or shocked industry watchers.

David Brooks, an executive vice president of Visa U.S.A., is leaving to join Advanta Corp., and executive vice president Peter Hill, who had worked with Mr. Gustafson, joined Mondex International.

"The departures are not related," said Mr. Jensen, who added, "Peter Hill had experience in technology, but we have a depth of management in that area."

A Visa spokeswoman said Mr. Tallman's direct reports, including Thomas J. Kappock, who in September was named executive vice president of operations and administration, are not expected to leave.

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