First USA Inc. has recruited one of the credit card industry's star executives to be its chief financial officer.

Jack M. Antonini, who guided USAA Federal Savings Bank to industry prominence, will become First USA's vice chairman for finance and planning, effective Sept. 1.

He is trading the chief executive's title at the USAA consumer bank, which has $4.8 billion of assets and $3 billion of credit card loans, for the No. 3 post at the fastest-growing of the big bank card issuers.

Dallas-based First USA ranks fourth in the industry, at $13.3 billion of outstandings, and is also the fourth-largest processor of credit card transactions for retail merchants.

Mr. Antonini's responsibilities will be broader than those of First USA's previous finance chief, Peter B. Bartholow, who resigned Aug. 7 to "pursue other interests," a company spokesman said.

The new job includes corporate development and strategic planning, capital markets, finance, and accounting. Mr. Antonini will report to John C. Tolleson, chairman and chief executive officer, and Richard W. Vague, president.

"The size and scope of our organization continue to increase," Mr. Tolleson said, "resulting in the need to increase the responsibilities of this position to take advantage of the opportunities we see before us."

He and other officials would not comment on the departure of Mr. Bartholow, who joined the company as chief financial officer in April 1994 after being president and CEO of MCorp, the Texas banking company that once owned First USA and subsequently sought bankruptcy protection.

Mr. Antonini also was unavailable for an interview.

Moshe Orenbuch, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York, described Mr. Antonini as "a heavy hitter in the card business but also in many other aspects" who can help First USA broaden its product line.

"He's a great addition to their management team," Mr. Orenbuch said.

"We have always expected at some point a slowdown in new credit card accounts," the analyst added. "That hasn't happened, but ultimately it will happen." Mr. Antonini "gives them a leg up in broadening the company beyond credit cards into other financial services."

Mr. Antonini built a stellar reputation during more than a decade at USAA Federal. The San Antonio thrift was chartered in 1983 by United Services Automobile Association, the mutual insurance company for military officers and their families, and pioneered the "branchless banking" concept that many major banks are now testing.

Consumer advocates and publications repeatedly praised the mail- and telephone-oriented operation's low credit card interest rates, favorable deposit rates, and quality of service. In June, Money magazine designated USAA the "best bank in America."

"Their numbers have been outstanding in terms of growth," Mr. Orenbuch said, and "they have always sat at the top of the table" in credit quality.

William Randle, senior vice president and director of marketing and strategic planning at Huntington Bankshares, Columbus, Ohio, who is a USAA customer, described Mr. Antonini as "bright, energetic" and capable of "taking First USA into a realm of banking activities beyond credit cards."

With Mr. Antonini's move, three of the big credit card specialty banks have recently augmented their top managements with industry luminaries. Former MasterCard International president Alex W. Hart joined Advanta Corp. last year and this month was promoted to chief executive officer.

Peter S.P. Dimsey likewise resigned as president of MasterCard's U.S. region this year to become senior executive vice president of MBNA America Bank.

Mr. Orenbuch said the Dimsey hiring more resembles that of Mr. Antonini, in that he is joining a team that expects to stay in place for some time. Mr. Hart, by contrast, was put on a track for the top job.

Mr. Antonini is on the MasterCard International and U.S. region boards. He is chairman of MasterCard's audit committee and a member of the executive and nominating committees.

Mr. Tolleson has been representing First USA on Visa's international and U.S. boards.

Mr. Antonini is a certified public accountant and has a B.A. degree in accounting from Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Mich.

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