Richard T. Robida, a prominent electronic banking consultant, has left Speer & Associates Inc. to join First Data Corp. as executive vice president of its card services group.

Mr. Robida had been president of Speer for 10 months, and officially left the Atlanta firm this month.

At First Data, the Hackensack, N.J.-based payment processor, Mr. Robida will direct the strategic growth and market expansion of card issuing services to financial institutions. He will report to Aldo Tesi, president of First Data's card services group, and will remain in Atlanta.

"Rick is a proven leader in the bank card industry, and brings a wealth of experience, talent, and vision to our team," Mr. Tesi said. "His goal will be to focus on providing our clients with the full breadth of issuing services-from customer service to decisioning models."

A spokeswoman for First Data said Mr. Robida was unvailable for comment.

At Speer, Mr. Robida had developed and managed consulting services for financial institutions, networks, and card associations. He joined Speer in 1988.

Richard Speer, chief executive of the consulting firm, said, "Over the years Rick has had a lot of opportunities to leave us, but the economic package and the opportunity at First Data was something he couldn't refuse."

Industry observers believe one reason First Data hired Mr. Robida was his expertise in managing customer relationships. "He will keep FDR close to the needs of their customers, which is something they could improve on, according to some people," said James B. Shanahan, principal of Business Dynamics, a consulting firm in Nyack, N.Y.

Mr. Robida will probably have a hand in pulling together the disparate businesses that First Data has accumulated through acquisitions. "The company is going through some major restructuring, and it has some major problems," Mr. Speer said.

Before joining Speer, Mr. Robida, a native of Canada, was general manager of card products for Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto. Mr. Robida was also chairman of Visa Canada and a member of the Visa International board. He helped develop the first interbank shared ATM network in Canada.

Speer & Associates, which focuses on retail banking, electronic banking, and payment systems, has not named a new president.

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