MasterCard International has named Alan J. Heuer president of its U.S. region, ending a four-month search to replace Peter S.P. Dimsey.

Mr. Heuer, 53, who started at MasterCard on Monday, had been executive vice president for retail operations at Bank of New York for the last three years.

Before that he worked for 28 years in credit cards and other businesses at Marine Midland Bank. There he played a role in the formation of the MasterCard association in the late 1960s. He was Marine Midland's chief banking officer when he left.

In appointing Mr. Heuer, MasterCard revived the tradition of having a banker in it top U.S. job. Mr. Dimsey, who became senior executive vice president of MBNA Corp. in February, after six years at MasterCard, had a background in marketing consumer products.

"We felt very strongly that we needed a senior banker (with) experience in both credit cards and retail line banking," said H. Eugene Lockhart, president and chief executive of MasterCard International. He said Mr. Heuer "has the blending of credit and debit skills and the proven leadership skills we need now."

As bankers increasingly discuss potential strategic alliances, "it's important to have someone in this position who's been on the other side of the fence" as a banker, Mr. Lockhart said.

He said MasterCard interviewed 15 candidates, including two nonbankers, before appointing Mr. Heuer.

The management change comes at a time of sustained credit card growth in the United States. MasterCard's domestic dollar volume rose 24% last year, to $172.4 billion, 45% of global MasterCard activity. The number of U.S. cards grew 19%, to 147.6 million.

New York-based MasterCard cited its cobranding and affinity marketing, commercial card growth, and focus on debit as reasons for the strong U.S. performance.

It plans to emphasize marketing and support for the gold MasterCard. This year, it said, it has committed 70% of its $100 million advertising budget toward new gold card advertising.

Mr. Heuer said it was MasterCard's vision of the industry that attracted him to the job.

"The arena where most of the action is right now is payment services," he said at a press conference. There are "tremendous opportunities for member institutions and the association," he said.

Robert Burke, the former chairman of Bank of New York's credit card bank in Delaware, called Mr. Heuer's appointment "very positive" and a "sign of the times." With credit card growth and direction firmly in place, he said, "Visa and MasterCard now are vying against each other very strongly for other products, such as home banking and debit.

"A lot of the retail bankers around the country are trying to think their way through strategies," Mr. Burke added, "and quite frankly, they would listen to someone like Alan with ... his traditional banking background, as opposed to someone with just credit card experience."

A native of Rochester, N.Y., Mr. Heuer graduated from Colgate University and has an MBA degree from the University of Rochester.

He was chairman of the Consumer Bankers Association in 1990 and until recently was a director of NYCE, now part of Infinet, the regional electronic banking network covering the Northeast.

Joe Belew, president of the Consumer Bankers Association in Arlington, Va., called Mr. Heuer "a consensus builder."

At MasterCard "he will probably pull the best from everyone around him," Mr. Belew said. "He certainly did here."

People respected and sought out Mr. Heuer's opinions, Mr. Belew said, but the banker did not foist his views on others.

"I think he's as solid as you'll ever find," Mr. Belew added. "He will be a very quick fit with the industry people that he essentially will work for."

Mr. Heuer has previous corporate and MasterCard connections with his new boss, Mr. Lockhart.

As a Marine Midland executive, Mr. Heuer served on MasterCard's U.S. board from 1990 to 1992, when Mr. Lockhart, then chief executive for Midland Bank in the United Kingdom, was a MasterCard International director. Both Marine Midland and Midland Bank are parts of HSBC Holdings, the London company that also owns Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp.

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