Keith Floen, who led the Credit Union National Association's troubled credit card unit, resigned Thursday after 11 years at the helm.
Greg Moser, acting executive vice president for Card Services, will assume day-to-day operations of the division.
Card Services, a unit of the trade group's for-profit subsidiary CUNA Service Group, has been plagued in recent years with losses, management upheaval, and contracting blunders.
The unit, with $5.5 billion of receivables and more than five million accounts, lost more than $3.9 million in 1995 and is projected to lose money this year and next as it struggles to restructure itself. CUNA officials hope this year to recapitalize the unit, which is owned by a for- profit subsidiary of the association.
In an interview, Mr. Floen said he resigned because he was considering career opportunities with corporations that do business with Card Services.
"I didn't feel it's appropriate to talk to some companies if CUNA is talking to them also," he said in an interview.
Mr. Floen said that he was ready for a change after more than a decade with the largest credit union trade group, and that the financial rewards are greater outside the fold.
"The kind of offers I'm looking at involve stock options and ownership," he said. "While at some point that opportunity might exist at CUNA, it doesn't now."
The trade group said that Mr. Floen had approached Mr. Moser about his desire to go elsewhere.
"Keith was ready for new challenges," Mr. Moser said.
Industry observers had expected the group to pressure Mr. Floen to leave since last fall, when its president, Ralph Swoboda, and Mr. Floen's immediate boss, Bradford L. Murphy, vice president of fee-based services, were fired.
But sources with the group said that unlike those two high-profile departures, Mr. Floen's was entirely voluntary, though he was under pressure at the time and may have been worried about his long-term future.
"It wasn't one of those deals where he either had to resign or be fired," said one trade association source. The source added that Mr. Floen had interviewed for other jobs within days of offering his resignation.
Mr. Floen said he left on his own, and denied that the bedlam at Card Services weighed in his decision. But the organization's current leaderless state did make it easier to quit, he said.
"You've got change going on in CUNA and no matter what I did I was going to have a new boss," he said.
Mr. Floen said he was confident that the management team at Card Services will be able to handle the unit's transition.
Mr. Floen's departure comes on the eve of a report, due Feb. 10, that could greatly influence the future of the trade group's card effort. Specifically, the group might spin off parts of the credit card unit - such as a home banking project - to other divisions of its parent CUNA Service Group.
"There is the possibility that we might do things differently," said Peter Crear, acting president of the Madison, Wis., trade group.
If functions are spun off from the Card Services division - the variety of its offerings had led some industry observers to say it was overambitious - a planned capitalization effort would be postponed until the third quarter.
"By that time we should have a good sense of what we would need for a cards operation," Mr. Crear said.
In the meantime Card Services would be funded by an inchoate $15 million line-of-credit facility being assembled by state leagues and credit unions, Mr. Crear said.
"We would ask leagues and credit unions to lend money to CUNA Service Group for a fixed time," Mr. Crear said.
Since last year, Card Services has discussed a capitalization plan to fund new lines of business and a new building. It was supposed to have been capitalized last year, but was postponed because of higher-than-expected losses at Card Services.
Late last year, Mr. Floen said the capitalization plan would be held in the first and second quarters of 1996.
The association on Jan. 1 hired the Maryland-based firm First Annapolis Consulting to review the business plans and structure of the trade group's Card Services division.
"It's awfully important for us to see the consultant's report," Mr. Crear added.
Terrence O'Hara contributed to this story.