The resume of Systematics president Stephen A. Carns looks more like a train schedule.

During the first 10 years of the technology executive's career, he held jobs in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Portland, and New York - most of them for International Business Machines Corp.

His itinerant ways have slowed in recent years. Now, Mr. Carns is settling down in Little Rock, Ark., where he was named president and chief operating officer at Systematics Information Services Inc., effective Wednesday.

"The whistle-stopping is done, I think," said Mr. Carns in a recent interview. "And the way this business is changing, I doubt if I'll feel like things are passing me by."

Toward an Extended Presence

As the No. 2 man at Systematics, under chief executive John E. Steuri, Mr. Carns will oversee software development and facilities management services for financial institutions.

Specifically, Mr. Carns hopes to bolster Systematics' already strong presence in an increasingly competitive business: handling bank's data processing operations, often referred to as outsourcing.

By most accounts, Systematics ranks a strong second in the outsourcing market behind perennial leader EDS Corp. of Dallas, a General Motors Corp. subsidiary. However, a number of companies have stepped up their efforts to land large bank contracts in recent months, and industry watchers say Systematics is feeling the squeeze.

"Systematics has been perceived - perhaps incorrectly - as a company for small and medium-size banks," said M. Arthur Gillis, president of Computer Based Solutions Inc. in New Orleans. "They are more than capable of providing quality services to large banks, but they are struggling for a way to get their message across."

In fact, Systematics already handles data processing for a number of large financial institutions. According to Mr. Cars, the company holds contracts with twice the number of banks in the $1 billion-asset-and-over range as its closest competitor.

Ground to Cover

Despite that success, Systematics has lost several hotly contested races for large contracts in the past year. Notably, in September, Integrated Systems Solutions Corp., a subsidiary of IBM, beat out Systematics for the Continental Bank Corp. deal valued at $450 million over 10 years.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, Mr. Carns - who worked at IBM for 21 years - is the third former Big Blue executive in two years to be installed in Systematics' management office.

Mr. Steuri, chairman and chief executive officer, came to Systematics from IBM in 1989. He was soon followed by Roger Owens, president of the financial services division.

Mr. Carns said the IBM connections is "certainly not programmatic - there's no master plan to turn the company into IBM or something."

But in addition to benefiting from Mr. Carns' experience in the outsourcing business, industry watchers suggest that Systematics might also be looking to project some of the strength and consistency that are IBM hallmarks.

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