For most of his career, Douglas J. Spence helped build and operate machines that make paper, roll steel, and mix chemicals on an assembly line.
As the new president of Huntington Bancshares' service company, Mr. Spence, 52, will turn his attention to running financial processes for a banking company known for its technological savvy.
Having worked for the past two years as chief information officer and vice president of corporate operations for Compuserve Corp.'s commercial on-line service, Mr. Spence considers himself fundamentally an engineer of process management.
He spent the previous 27 years at ABB Industrial Systems Inc. and its predecessors, companies that assembled and serviced systems that cost up to $3 million for large paper, chemical, and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
"Whether in banking, industrial automation, or on-line services, you have to establish a process for doing business with a system of controls and measurement," Mr. Spence said.
Attempts to develop such systems for Columbus, Ohio-based Compuserve ended when the company was sold in September to Worldcom Inc., which then traded the pioneering on-line service to America Online Inc.
Mr. Spence's approach may mesh better with Huntington. The bank, also based in Columbus, has established aggressive goals for both on-line banking and conventional branch growth.
The bank recently completed conversion of First Michigan Bank Corp.'s computer systems, and by the end of June it intends to integrate 60 branches that NationsBank Corp. divested after buying Barnett Banks Inc.
Huntington's Web site boasts more than 74,000 customers since the bank relaunched the service last October.
"While our commitment to on-line services is a very real one, we can't force our customers, and we will offer the traditional services for some time to come," said Frank Wobst, Huntington's chairman.
Stressing that the bank was looking for more than just a specialist in electronic transactions to preside over the service company, Mr. Wobst added that Mr. Spence's Compuserve experience-in which he devised a system for tracking and billing Internet users-certainly "didn't hurt."
"We felt that it would be good for us to bring in someone from outside," Mr. Wobst said.
"Huntington has been somewhat thrifty in the last three to four years in technology spending," said Richard Sellers, "but they are making major commitments going forward." Mr. Sellers, who was president of Huntington Service Co., a 1,200-employee unit of $26 billion-asset Huntington, announced his retirement last October.
"From Internet banking to data warehouses and check imaging, there are so many areas that a bank has to spend its technology dollars that it is tough to be a leader in every area," Mr. Sellers said.
Besides information systems and services, Mr. Spence's responsibilities include facilities and real estate, corporate and network security, and bank operations.
Mr. Spence described his new task as twofold: being the "change agent" for implementing strategic technology initiatives, and serving as an advocate who keeps employees from having unreasonable demands placed upon them.
Such a task involves both an awareness of the capabilities of new technology and a recognition that banks should not invest in everything that comes their way.
"With software, it is always very hard to get anyone to agree on the design freeze," Mr. Spence said, referring to the point at which creative development stops and production begins.
"You don't want to get carried away with the concept without asking, 'How much will this cost to maintain?' and 'What is our return on investment?,'" he said.