First Bank System has rehired an executive and put him in charge of its powerhouse commercial card business.

After a brief stint with Electronic Data Systems Corp., Steven M. Putney has rejoined the Minneapolis-based bank as the president of corporate payment systems. He is charged with developing a proprietary processing system for the bank's commercial card business.

First Bank said Mr. Putney, 43, had been instrumental in growing the corporate and purchasing card side to its current annual charge volume of nearly $6 billion today from a portfolio size of $30 million in 1990.

Calling First Bank a "dynamic institution" and the new job "a great opportunity and a good fit for both of us," Mr. Putney said he would focus on building the corporate-card business into a proprietary network, weaning it away from its processor, Total System Services.

He said he wants to use the existing processing infrastructure to move into business-to-business transactions and electronic data interchange.

Mr. Putney said he also intends to extend the business' international operations. In 1995, First Bank formed an alliance with HSBC Holdings in London to issue commercial cards for U.S. customers through its subsidiaries and affiliates in the United Kingdom and other countries.

"A truly international processing platform for the commercial market doesn't exist today," he said. "I am going to build one."

Mr. Putney had worked as the senior vice president of sales and marketing before leaving First Bank System at the end of 1995, after a five-year stint.

He then joined Plano, Tex.-based EDS as executive vice president of electronic commerce, responsible for developing international business and emerging products.

First Bank's corporate card business "is crucial for their long-term goals and objectives to maintain being a major player," said Stanley W. Anderson, president, Anderson Consulting, Denver.

First Bank is the largest bank card issuer of procurement and corporate products. it is third overall, behind American Express and Diners Club.

In his new job, Mr. Putney will report to Daniel J. Frate, general manager for First Bank's payment systems businesses.

"He's familiar with them and how they operate," Mr. Anderson said, adding that the bank's commercial card division is not likely to see many changes as a result of the rehire.

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