MBNA America Bank, the nation's third-largest credit card lender, has hired an international consumer banking expert as a vice chairman.

Fred C. Enlow, 54, will oversee MBNA International Bank in Chester, England, while commuting from the company's base in Newark, Del.

MBNA, whose $14.2 billion in managed credit card outstandings are surpassed only by Citicorp and Dean Witter, Discover & Co., chose Mr. Enlow because of his vast international experience. He also has had a close relationship with MBNA's chief executive officer, Charles Cawley.

"I've known Charles for many years," said Mr. Enlow. "Our initial meeting was through MasterCard. We served on their board of directors and on their executive committee."

In his new position, Mr. Enlow will focus on international expansion. Initially acting as an observer, he said his first priority will be to assess the strategic needs of the company.

At present, the British-based division is strictly a credit card issuer, but the company has a full United Kingdom banking charter, leaving the door open for a number of new overseas opportunities. Mr. Enlow also will supervise the individual banking division in the United States, which offers deposit products, installment and home equity loans, corporate card services, and insurance products.

He will serve as a member of the bank's management committee and the MBNA America board of directors.

The chief executive of MBNA International, Thomas McGinley, and the head of the individual banking division, Patrick Blewett, will both report to Mr. Enlow.

Mr. Enlow brings 25 years' international experience in banking and finance to the $8.2 billion-asset MBNA.

His professional history includes 14 years in the personal banking and marketing divisions of BankAmerica Corp.'s Seafirst unit in Seattle.

From 1982 through 1985, he worked in Bank of America's retail consumer products division, until he was recruited by Standard Chartered Bank of London, where he supervised worldwide consumer financial activities.

Most recently, Mr. Enlow served as senior executive director of Dah Sing Financial Holdings, a Chineseowned bank in Hong Kong.

After nine years abroad, Mr. Enlow said, "I was ready to come back to the states."

He added that he and his wife thought it would be timely to return and use some of the experience gained overseas for the benefit of MBNA. The move will also bring him closer geographically to his two children.

Jack David, executive vice president and director of retail marketing at BankAmerica Corp., who worked with Mr. Enlow in the 1960s and 1970s at Seafirst, said the hire clearly makes sense for MBNA.

"Fred is an outstanding retail banker," said Mr. David.

"If you couple his early experience of marketing to a retail consumer base with his years of serving abroad, here's a guy that has a real in-depth understanding of not only the technical aspects of the business and a God-given empathy for [the] customer, but a comprehensive understanding of a multicultural world."

Even so, Mr. David joked, "I'd just as soon put him on a ship back - he's going to be a tough competitor."

On the other hand, he said, "It'll he fun to compete against him - he was feisty, fiery, bright guy. I loved working with him." Mr. Enlow looks forward to his new responsibilities.

"MBNA is a terrific company - the first in its class," he said. "I hope I can make some contribution to their growth."

Mr. Enlow said the company's philosophy fits his own. "The key to a great deal of the success of MBNA is that the customer comes first - that's the real tenet of this company."

MBNA, at one time an affiliate of Maryland National Bank (which recently became part of NationsBank Corp.), climbed to the top echelons of the credit card industry largely on the strength of cobranded and affinity programs.

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