ELIZABETH A. EVANS Executive vice president Wells Fargo & Co., San Francisco

Elizabeth A. Evans, Wells Fargo & Co.'s operations wizard, never intended to be a systems specialist - much less a top technology executive in the banking industry.

After collecting a bachelor's degree in business management from Bradley University in 1976 and a master's in business administration in finance and marketing two years later from UCLA, the St. Louis native signed on at Crocker National Bank in San Francisco as a junior lending officer.

But instead of making loans, her first assignment was to set up an electronic payment processing system in the international collections unit. From then on, she was pegged as a back-room specialist.

"I was thrown in the middle of an automation frenzy. I never lent a dime in my career," she chuckles.

Fate cast her in the right direction. Colleagues say Ms. Evans communicates a passion about her work, which brings out the talents of those who work for her.

HEr proudest accomplish, the 36-year-old banker says, was instilling a sense of pride and purpose in the information-services staff while carving out a mission to serve the line business units.

Wells hired Ms. Evans in 1982 to duplicate her Crocker feat by automating the bank's international collections. In the years since, she has taken on an ever-heavier load of responsibilities.

Tapped to run Wells' central computer and telecommunications operations in 1989, she was in rapid order also put in charge of data center facilities management, data security, check processing, branch services, and cash-vault management.

Ms. Evans is known for simplifying data operations to better suit business needs, an approach that fits well with Wells' pragmatic, profit-focused philosophy.

Under Wells' decentralized management structure, each banking unit in effect buys data services from Ms. Evans' information group. She describes Wells bankers as "customers," a relationship that, she says, brings a market focus to technology operations.

"We're always trying to improve customer service while reducing unit costs," she says. "We're never leading-edge," she says, "but we do try to use technical solutions to solve business problems."

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