Keycorp, the nation's 11th-largest bank holding company, has named Stephen J. Hucal head of its fledgling credit card business.

As senior vice president and director of credit card services, Mr. Hucal, 42, will be responsible for expanding and managing the program, which has 1.4 million cards and $1.4 billion in assets.

"I'm here to close the gap. It'll take time for us," Mr. Hucal said. "The goal is to ratchet up our credit card business so that it is commensurate with the size of the bank."

The $67.7 billion-asset company, based in Cleveland, has more than 1,400 branches in 25 states.

Mr. Hucal comes from the Sears, Roebuck and Co., where he was national manager of credit policy. When Dean Witter, Discover & Co. was affiliated with Sears, Mr. Hucal managed credit card, strategic, and financial functions for Dean Witter. He also had a role in the Discover Card start- up.

"I've been fortunate to be a part of probably the most successful credit card enterprise ever," said Mr. Hucal. "I have a wealth of experience that will guide me in the direction I'm heading."

Said A. Jay Meyerson, Keycorp's executive vice president and head of national consumer finance: "We expect Steve's leadership will allow us to enhance growth and customer service in our credit card business."

With the Society Corp. merger completed in 1994, Keycorp reported $1.6 billion in credit card outstandings at yearend, ranking it 27th nationally. But it had a down year overall, said Moshe A. Orenbuch, analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein.

"They are typical of a lot of banks struggling" with what to do with the card business, Mr. Orenbuch said. "The business hasn't been growing, but it makes too much money to get rid of."

In fact, Keycorp is surrounded by a host of issuers that have $500,000 to $2 billion in receivables and don't seem to be moving much, said Thomas McCandless, an analyst with PaineWebber.

"Keycorp may be able to be a second-tier player if they farm out some of their operational costs like PNC did," he said.

This spring Pittsburgh-based PNC Corp. announced a deal to outsource its credit card marketing to Card Issuer Program Management Corp., Atlanta, in an effort to push into the card industry's top 25. Industry followers expect similar deals to follow.

As part of its First Choice 2000, a five-year plan announced in March, Keycorp said it is organizing a national consumer finance business, including credit cards. Keycorp ranks eighth among U.S. bank holding companies in consumer lending, with a portfolio of about $26 billion.

"We are looking at underserved parts of the market that are currently not getting access to credit today," Mr. Hucal said.

Since he joined Sears in 1985, Mr. Hucal was responsible for credit policy risk management functions, plus new product development, field authorizations, and systems.

Prior to joining Sears, Mr. Hucal held management posts with American Hospital Supply Corp., Navistar, and Ernst & Young.

He earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Syracuse University and a master of business administration degree in finance from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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