Richard P. Yanak, the gregarious president and chief executive officer of NYCE Corp., said he will retire from the regional electronic banking network in October.

Mr. Yanak, whose career spans 23 years in the electronic payments industry, will be succeeded by Dennis Lynch, the regional network's chief operating officer and executive vice president.

"Dick is truly one of the outstanding leaders in this field - I'm disappointed with his decision to retire," said Robert H. Muth, a member of the NYCE executive committee and senior executive vice president, operations, Marine Midland Banks Inc. "The positive news is we won't miss a beat when Dick leaves and Dennis takes over."

Mr. Yanak, 61, had been planning for his retirement since he came to NYCE through its merger with Yankee 24 two years ago. He agreed to run the new venture until "we'd gotten done what we set out to do," which included integrating the two companies, securing a competent staff, and launching new business initiatives like home banking.

By luring Mr. Lynch, an former Fleet Financial Group Inc. senior vice president and NYCE executive committee member, into the fold, Mr. Yanak was able to groom his successor.

"Dick selected a guy with his strategic imprint," said another executive committee member, Bank of New York Co. senior vice president John H. Hicks. "He saw Dennis as a very logical successor in terms of following through his vision."

Mr. Yanak has been a guiding light for the industry since 1974 when he founded the Exchange System, the first shared automated teller machine network. He remained an electronic banking innovator, boosting Yankee 24 into the largest ATM network in New England, while initiating QuickPay, the first supermarket point of sale debit program in New England.

Engineering the merger with NYCE was another crowning achievement, said Mr. Yanak, but he didn't rest on his laurels.

NYCE recently introduced its home banking system, and will announce the signing of three major customers within the next two months. By investing heavily in its processing facilities, NYCE is breaking into that business, enticing members like Marine Midland - which presently drives its own ATM network.

The Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based organization opened a Boston office last month, to better serve its northern clients, and established a development office in Colorado, taking advantage of a team of high-tech systems analysts and programmers.

Mr. Yanak, while lauded for his achievements, will be remembered for his affable nature and quick wit. At NYCE's 1996 annual meeting, playing the part of George Washington leading the revolution - replete with powdered wig and tricornered hat - Mr. Yanak reached out to all the organization's members with humor and enthusiasm.

"He's everybody's uncle," said Stan Paur, president and chief executive of Pulse EFT Association in Houston.

"We will miss Dick cause he's always kept us laughing," said Richard Lyons, chief operating officer of Internet Inc., Reston, Va., which owns the Most network.

Though he is leaving NYCE, Mr. Yanak insists: "I'm not going out to the deep woods to contemplate." Along with consulting and possibly teaching, he will devote his sunset years to his three grandchildren.

Many observers noted dramatic differences in style between Mr. Yanak and his successor. Mr. Muth called Mr. Yanak "a happy, hale, hardy fellow," in contrast with Mr. Lynch,"a quieter, more serious chap," But he called both styles "effective."

While Mr. Lynch might not perform theatrics, he says: "I don't think we're quite as different as some perceive." He promised to unleash his own outgoing nature "that will keep the organization together and keep confidence in smaller (member) institutions."

Mr. Lynch said he will address NYCE's role in smart cards, Internet transactions, and electronic benefits transfer, while forging ahead with strategic plans already in place.

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