First Data Corp.'s card services group has hired an outsider for a newly created post in its merchant processing division.

Starting next week, James R. Gudmens, 45, will be president and group executive of First Data Merchant Services Corp., Sunrise, Fla.

Mr. Gudmens will report to Roger Peirce, the California-based group president of electronic funds services, which oversees the division.

Mr. Peirce said the new post is "both of tactical and strategic importance" because the "merchant services area, in terms of revenues, is the largest-size business unit within First Data."

"Our goal is to have FDMS provide the highest quality, richest function, and lowest-cost merchant services in the market," he said, adding that Mr. Gudmens "has been a force in the industry for a long time."

Before coming to First Data, Mr. Gudmens was president of FDS National Bank and senior vice president of FACS Group Inc., the credit processing subsidiary of Federated Department Stores Inc., Cincinnati. He also formerly was senior vice president of Cincinnati's Fifth Third Bank.

Merchant services is "very important" to First Data, said Paul Martaus, president of Martaus & Associates, Clearwater, Fla. "It provides them with half of the data that they need to fulfill the U.S.A. value exchange system."

He said that system is what First Data relies on for the consumer purchasing demographic information it provides to merchants and financial institutions.

The merchant services division is also significant, Mr. Martaus said, because it operates First Data's merchant-processing joint ventures with financial institutions.

In a statement, Mr. Gudmens said it was "very exciting" to join First Data. He said the company invests "significantly in the merchant business," enabling it to offer clients an "advantageous outsourcing solution with superior cost structures."

In his new position, Mr. Gudmens will be responsible for the merchant unit's operations, data centers, new-account processing, client and merchant services, client relations, finance, and human resources.

First Data Merchant Services was formed earlier this year. It incorporates both Card Establishment Services and Nabanco, the point of sale and merchant processing companies that came together when First Data Corp. merged with First Financial Management Corp.

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