First Data Corp. has snared the top lawyer from Fleet Financial Group's investment products business for a key post in its growing mutual fund servicing division.

Barbara L. Worthen has joined First Data Investor Services, Boston, as executive vice president of legal administration, the company confirmed. She stepped down as general counsel of Fleet Investment Services in mid- September.

First Data, based in Hackensack, N.J., said it could not provide further details on Ms. Worthen's move, and she did not return calls seeking comment.

Ms. Worthen is well regarded in the fund industry, and has a high profile on the conference circuit. She is certainly acquainted with First Data Investor Services, because Fleet is a major client.

David B. Master, a consultant at Optima Group, Fairfield, Conn., said that the hire may signal First Data's desire to reposition itself as a major fund administrator in a competitive industry.

Her stature in the industry should make her a good external agent and ambassador to the industry, Mr. Master said.

First Data's primary business is tracking credit card accounts for banks, but it has been building a strong presence in fund servicing over the past few years.

In 1995, it acquired 440 Financial Group, a mutual fund administrator and distributor, merged it with its Shareholder Services Group subsidiary, and renamed the unit First Data Investor Services. The unit administers $40.9 billion in bank-related mutual funds.

Ms. Worthen's departure is the most recent in a series of executive- level exits from Fleet's investment products unit.

"Clearly there's been such a high level of turnover there, it appears to be a changing of the guard," said Geoffrey H. Bobroff, of Bobroff Consulting Inc., East Greenwich, R.I.

Great Western Financial Corp. vice chairman A. William Schenck, who serves with Ms. Worthen on a Consumer Bankers Association investments committee, said she is extremely bright and has a high energy level, which will lend itself to the culture at First Data.

"Her personality and intellect fit that company," and its entrepreneurial atmosphere, Mr. Schenck said.

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