The jury is still out on Signet Banking Corp.'s effort to rejuvenate its core commercial bank. But there can be no doubt about the success of Signet's credit card program, capped off this year by the long-anticipated public spinoff of that unit.

It was Robert M. Freeman who had the vision several years ago to invest in new information technologies to make Signet a national powerhouse in credit cards. He recognized then that skillful manipulation of data bases and targeted mass mailings could enable a regional bank to build a nationwide franchise.

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