A new hire at a BankAmerica Corp. unit signals an attempt to regain market share in credit cards, industry experts said, and may indicate interest in a large-scale cobranded program.

Last week, William R. Anderson, the former director of United States consumer marketing for General Motors card operations, Detroit, became the director of marketing for Bank of America N.A., the credit card unit of the San Francisco-based banking company.

He is the third high-level executive in the past two years to be added to the Phoenix-based card group.

Analysts are divided about whether the move shows Bank of America preparing to launch a cobranded automobile program or seeking to increase its credit card market share, which after years of decline is finally on the rise again.

In January 1994, Bank of America added Lanny Byers, formerly the assistant vice president of bank card marketing for Bank One, Columbus. Joseph Lyons, a marketing manager for GE Capital Services, Cincinnati, joined the company in March 1995. Both are vice presidents in Bank of America's credit card group.

David Robertson, president of Nilson Report, Oxnard, Calif., said Bank of America may be gearing up to launch a card like the GM-Household card.

"I think that it's indicative that they will be launching a similar program at Bank of America," he said.

Mr. Anderson "has understood managing a program of that scale," Mr. Robertson said, and the bank has been "looking for an experienced person to be at the helm of such a program and see that it doesn't get out of hand and make sure that it is well-managed."

It is a "logical assumption" that the bank will set up a card program with Chrysler Corp., Mr. Robertson observed.

"Bank of America has the might and the resources, both in capital and people," said James Accomando, president of Accomando Consulting Inc., Fairfield, Conn. He said he doubts Bank of America would set up a cobranded program with a domestic car company. He said he thinks it "may be something overseas, with Honda, Toyota, or Mazda."

But consultant Michael Auriemma, president of Auriemma Consulting Group, Westbury, N.Y., said he does not think the move indicates an impending announcement of a cobranded deal.

"Bill Anderson is an excellent marketer and has done a great job with the GM card. Bank of America has been looking for a marketing chief for a long time," Mr. Auriemma said.

He added that Bank of America has needed to resolve strategic and operational issues arising from its recent mergers with Seafirst and Security Pacific Bank and the opening of a card service center in Phoenix.

"They're getting poised to come back in the market and regain some of the ground that they've lost," he said.

Carole Berger, an analyst for Salomon Brothers, agreed.

"Bank of America has lost tremendous market share and has tried to rebuild over the last few years," she said. "They have not kept pace with the market leaders. Although they have stemmed their losses, they haven't turned the momentum."

The bank continues to view credit cards as an important area, and the new hiring was meant "clearly to further reposition them in the business," she added.

She pointed to Bank of America's Sunoco card, which hit the market in 1994, and which she called "a major change in direction." The bank's strategy has turned to cobranding, and a large auto card might make sense, she said.

While voicing his optimism about joining Bank of America, Mr. Anderson would not specify his plans.

"I am very pleased to join a high-quality team of people at Bank of America who are committed to growing the business profitably," said Mr. Anderson. "My GM experience will help us with cobranded programs (Bank of America) has done and hopes to do."

Mr. Anderson, 38, held several positions at CoreStates Bank of Delaware, Wilmington, from 1988 to 1993. In 1992-93 he was the vice president and director of business planning, acquisition, and development. In 1991-92 he was the bank's vice president and director of marketing. Before that he was vice president of gold card products.

From 1982 to 1988 he worked at Citibank Maryland in the Choice Strategic Business unit as the senior manager for portfolio management. He had started there as the assistant marketing manager.

He received his B.S. in business administration from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., in 1979.

In his new position, Mr. Anderson will report to Stephen Galasso, president of Bank of America.

Bank of America spokeswoman Betty Reiss said the bank would not comment on product plans or on speculation. Michael McKesson, a spokesman for Chrysler, was skeptical about the possibility of a cobranded card with Bank of America.

"It is not something that we have decided to do at this point. We will continue to focus on other marketing programs," he said.

Bank of America reports that it has 10 million accounts, with 13.9 million cards issued. The Phoenix facility was opened in the fall of 1991.

Outstandings at the end of the first quarter, 1996, were $8.9 billion. Assets for BankAmerica Corp., the holding company, were $234 billion.

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