Equifax Inc. has promoted veteran credit card processing executive Lee A. Kennedy to president and chief operating officer.

Mr. Kennedy, 48, was most recently executive vice president and group executive of Equifax Payment Services. He will handle day-to-day operations, freeing chairman and chief executive officer Thomas F. Chapman to work on broader strategic issues.

Mr. Chapman, 55, said he intends to focus more on "mergers, acquisitions, alliances, and new initiatives."

Mr. Chapman, who until the announcement Wednesday had held the title of president, rose to chairman in May, succeeding C.B. "Jack" Rogers, 69, who remains chairman of the executive committee.

Mr. Chapman said Atlanta-based Equifax's rapid growth-which includes expansion into 18 countries and diversification beyond its core business of credit reporting-brought a need for additional depth in the executive suite.

At Equifax Payment Services in Tampa, Mr. Kennedy headed card processing operations spanning several countries. The unit also manages credit card portfolios for small banks and credit unions in the United States, and it offers check guarantee and other transaction services.

Equifax has gotten into many data base and information management businesses, serving clients in financial services, health care, government, and other industries. Mr. Kennedy said his priority is to unify the new businesses Equifax has developed or bought.

"The thing that really excites me is taking our card capabilities and integrating them into some of the other businesses we operate," he said. "We have not integrated as well as I think we can.

"We want to take some of the attributes of our card business and make those available to our other business units throughout the world," Mr. Kennedy said. "I think the leverage that you get is tremendous, and I don't think we've really tapped that significantly."

At Equifax Payment Services, for example, disciplines from other Equifax divisions, including information and risk management, were blended into operations, Mr. Kennedy said.

Mr. Kennedy was president of Telecredit Service Center from 1981 to 1990, the year it was acquired by Equifax. Telecredit became Equifax Check Solutions and Equifax Card Solutions. In 1995 those divisions were combined into Equifax Payment Services.

Larry Towe, former senior vice president and general manager of Equifax Card Solutions International, will succeed Mr. Kennedy at Equifax Payment Services.

Mr. Chapman said he was particularly looking forward to defining the role that Equifax will play on the Internet. The company recently got into the digital certification business through Equifax Secure Inc., and "we think that business is about ready to take off," Mr. Chapman said.

"The authentication and certification business is going to be the essence of business on the Internet, and we intend to be a big player there," Mr. Chapman said.

He said digital certificates would probably become one of a range of on- line services. "It could be delivering our basic products and services via the Net, it could be ensuring security, it could be selling products via the Net," Mr. Chapman said. "What I'm going to be working on is the 'Equifax-dot-com' part of the equation."

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