David Van Lear, a former Banc One executive, has stepped into what many regard as the most influential job in electronic banking.
As the new chairman and chief executive of Electronic Payment Services Inc., Mr. Van Lear sits at the helm of an innovatively structured company that handles more ATM transactions than any other network in the U.S.
Since its formation in July 1992, Delaware-based EPS has been the model to which the rapidly contracting electronic funds transfer industry looks for ideas about the types of products and services a network will have to provide in order to survive.
"EPS has established the network blueprint that is being closely watched by any network that hopes to be around in 10 years," said Richard Speer, chairman of Speer & Associates in Atlanta.
The basics of that blueprint include an aggressive plan to acquire new members and, when possible, other networks, while simultaneously expanding the product line and transaction processing capabilities of the network.
Mr. Van Lear said that his experience as president of Banc One Services Corp., Banc One Corp.'s technology arm, makes for a smooth transition to EPS. Banc One, along with Core-States Financial Corp., PNC Bank Corp., and Society Corp. are the equity owners of EPS.
The Banc One Experience
"Having acquired 114 banks with Banc One and having integrated them into the main company and into the technology operation has really given me a solid background in terms of allowing me to do the same things at EPS," said Mr. Van Lear, who began his job as EPS chief executive in early August.
"From a pure technology standpoint, I've been around the the EFT, ATM, and point of sale business literally from the time that it became a kind of favorite in the banking industry."
To be sure, no former experience could prepare Mr. Van Lear completely for what he will have to contend with at EPS. The company is, after all, owned by four financial institutions who are bound to differ on some strategic points.
Complicating the situation, Mr. Van Lear said the current owners may be soon joined by new equity partners.
Industry observers said National City Corp. in Cleveland and First Bank System Inc. in Minneapolis are leading candidates for these equity positions.
But the heads of several of EPS' rival networks agree that Mr. Van Lear is well prepared for the challenges that face him.
A graduate of San Diego State University, Mr. Van Lear has spent most of his working life at financial institutions or at companies that serve them.
A |Temporary' Assignment
His career began in a what was supposed to be a temporary assignment at the technology unit of Norwest Corp., which at the time was known as North West Corp.
That "temporary" placement turned into a 17 year stint at the Minneapolis-based service company that culminated in his spending four years at the helm of the unit.
After Norwest, an unsuccessful attempt to save a California savings and loan led to Mr. Van Lear's acceptance of a job with Banc One Corp. in 1986.
While there was never a shortage of challenges at Banc One, Mr. Van Lear took the EPS job last month because he felt the electronic funds transfer business is entering a stage that offers some unique opportunities.
"I don't think you could come into an industry at a better time if your intent was to try and make some kind of important mark," said Mr. Van Lear. "It's a personal challenge but at the same time, it could be a great deal of fun."