Dudley M. Nigg, who has led Wells Fargo & Co.'s aggressive foray into high-tech initiatives like Internet banking and smart cards since 1994, will retire at yearend, the bank announced yesterday.

Under Mr. Nigg's watch, Wells Fargo became the first to offer on-line banking through the Internet in May 1995. As executive vice president in charge of the bank's on-line financial services division, Mr. Nigg also launched Internet trading, and various pilots of smart card and electronic bill presentment technology.

Mr. Nigg, 51, said he is leaving to pursue outside interests, including sailing to Australia. He said he did "not expect to see any slowdown" in the progress of various consumer technology pilots under way, as Wells completes its pending merger with Norwest Corp.

But he said the new bank will "need to do more work to flesh out the business case" for smart cards. "Smart cards have not progressed as far as we thought they would," he said.

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