Taking his place last week as the newest member of the management team at Electronic Data Systems Corp., Fred Gumbel already has a clear focus for the business - one he formed working on the other side of the fence.

After six years with First Bank System Inc., Mr. Gumbel, 41, recently left his last post there - as senior vice president m charge of the retail payment systems group - to become president of EDS' electronic commerce division.

That division encompasses information processing services for credit and debit transactions, electronic benefits transfer and transactions from automated teller machines and point of sale terminals, and in-home banking.

"Those who were my competitors will be my customers now, so if they had any respect for me as a competitor, they'll give us their business," Mr. Gumbel said.

Before taking a job with First Bank, he spent 11 years with Citicorp, in the areas of data processing and services and credit cards.

Two years out of college, Mr. Gumbel started at Citi after a stint with the Mercantile Stores department store chain, which at that time was moving its private-label credit card to the bank.

After spending more than five years between Citi's major market card segment and the smallto-midsize merchant group, Mr. Gumbel moved to the Diners Club division in Denver to handle service and operations for 3% years.

After that, he relocated. to Florida to oversee Citi's services, productivity, and emerging technologies.

Mr. Gumbel moved nine times in his 11 years with Citicorp.

Won't Happen Overnight

Now, as he settles in at EDS, Mr. Gumbel sees the company headed toward even greater participation in delivery systems. But, like most other big players, he knows the company will head in that direction through "evolution, not revolution."

From his perspective, the broad-based outsourcer is starting to streamline its business. He wants to help give the company more of a central focus.

"EDS was a little out of touch. It was difficult for me to put my finger on what EDS was," Mr. Gumbel said. "It seemed like the product-of-the-month club, one time a software company, then a third-party processor."

"I want the business to know what it is, and I think it has clearly identified itself as a value-added processor," he added.

To that end, Mr. Gumbel wants to emphasize automated teller machine placements, among other delivery systems. But he would not comment any further on his specific strategy for the company or his division.

EDS will continue to build its business in new areas through alliances with industry leaders, such as the company's arrangement with the General Motors card, he said.

Merchant Processing Focus

Though keeping the business well-focused is his goal, Mr. Gumbel does plan to remain dedicated to one mainstay of the business - merchant processing.

"There were a lot of financial institutions that cut and ran out of the merchant business," he said. "They couldn't deal with thin margins."

Mr. Gumbel's clear vision for EDS is nothing new, though. Bruce Mullet, a former co-worker during Mr. Gumbel's days with Citicorp, said he has always been a "man of action."

"He's basically a no-nonsense, hard-charging guy," Mr. Muller said. "He's fast to assess a situation, fast to come up with a solution, and fast to implement it. He's not long on deliberation."

Mr. Gumbel has a wife and an 11-year-old son.

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