When he retires at yearend from Colorado National Bankshares Inc., D. Dale Browning will simplify his life in one obvious respect: He will be able to get by with a single business card.

Mr. Browning, 55, who rose to industry prominence as a credit card executive and founder of the international Plus automated teller machine network, will hang up his multiple banking hats and concentrate on being president of Plus System Inc. in Denver.

Mr. Browning said this week that he would drop three of his titles on Dec. 31: vice chairman of Colorado National in Denver; chairman and chief executive officer of its lead bank, Colorado National in Denver; and chairman of Rocky Mountain BankCard System, a subsidiary Mr. Browning founded in 1969.

Logical Time to Move On

With his $3 billion-asset bank preparing to merge with Minneapolis-based First Bank System Inc. by mid-1993, Mr. Browning decided it was time to "move on to what I really enjoy doing."

Because Mr. Browning gained national visibility through the Plus System, to the vast majority of U.S. bankers his retirement announcement is a nonevent.

"I want to make it clear [to the ATM community] that I am not going anywhere," he said in an interview during the Bank Administration Institute's retail delivery conference in San Antonio, Tex. "My resignation only affects what I do at Colorado National."

One of the rare breed who became a bank CEO without ever having made a loan, Mr. Browning took much of the credit for a turnaround that made Colorado National attractive for takeover, with a return on assets currently at 1.3%.

Genuinely Pursuing |Other Interest'

While his press release included the perfunctory "it's time for me to pursue other interests," Mr. Browning emphasized that those include a first love.

"I couldn't be more pleased," he said. "I intend to work another 10 years at what I really want to do. At this stage of my life and career, commercial banking is not what I want to do."

Mr. Browning will continue building on his reputation as an entrepreneur and innovator, earned in the formative stages of the credit it card business. In the 1970s, before he turned 40, he was already something of an elder statesman in the industry.

Within the Visa system, he was one of the strongest opponents of duality, the policy that allowed MasterCard members to join Visa and vice versa. Mr. Browning argued that duality, which was adopted in the mid-1970s, would dilute competition.

From Regional to International

Colorado National's processing company, Rocky Mountain BankCard, initiated the shared ATM program, called Plus, that began regionally and evolved to connect 100,000 ATMs available to 200 million cardholders in 37 countries.

Mr. Browning faces an important piece of unfinished business with his 10-year-old baby. In contrast to rival Cirrus System Inc., which is wholly owned by MasterCard International, Plus is more loosely affiliated with Visa U.S.A.

Under a 1987 agreement, Visa controls seven of 21 seats on the Plus board. The organizations share a close technological and strategic affinity - but not close enough to satisfy their current leaderships.

Mr. Browning is negotiating with top Visa executives to redefine their relationship.

Many industry experts have assumed that Visa will eventually exercise its option in the 1987 agreement to acquire Plus outright, giving it coequal status with the Interlink point-of-sale debit card program and other arrows in Visa's quiver.

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