Bank of America didn't have to go far in its quest to replace Robert Sznewajs as chief of its credit card group in Phoenix, but the search did take time.

The bank announced last week that it had promoted Stephen B. Galasso, executive vice president for credit card marketing, to president of the card unit, Bank of America NA.

The post had been open since Mr. Sznewajs left in April 1994 to become executive vice president of U.S. Bancorp in Portland, Ore. The BankAmerica Corp. subsidiary then waited six months before kicking off a nationwide search for his replacement.

Mr. Galasso, who was promoted to executive vice president in January, continues to report to James G. Jones, group executive vice president for consumer credit.

Mr. Jones, who was acting credit card chief since Mr. Sznewajs' departure, said Mr. Galasso has "three key attributes: a marketing background, his experience with credit cards, and now his experience with Bank of America. He knows how to operate in our institution.

"I find him to be highly motivated," Mr. Jones said. "He attracts good people, exercising the direction or leadership that gets a group of people motivated."

The San Francisco-based bank, a card industry pioneer with its BankAmericard in the 1950s, had $8 billion in outstandings and 5.75 million active accounts at yearend 1994. In terms of outstandings it ranks ninth in the country, according to Salomon Brothers Inc.

From 1991 through 1994, Bank of America's credit card market share fell 2.19%, Salomon said. Only Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank lost more share over that time.

But Bank of America increased its portfolio by 7.2% in the fourth quarter of 1994, after it had dropped 5.7% in the first nine months of that year. It reported a $200,000 drop in outstandings in the first quarter, to $7.8 billion, which it attributed to "seasonal" factors.

"Based on their results, the program has in fact made some advances," said K. Shelly Porges, chief executive of Porges/Hudson Marketing Inc. in San Francisco and a former Bank of America employee. "Certainly, that would had been a result of things they had in place, but I know Steve was a very much a part of that."

"For a while everyone was wondering what was going on over there," she added. "I think it was a good reflection on Bank of America to pick someone from within."

During Mr. Jones' interim period as credit card executive, his objectives were to reduce loss rates, expand the portfolio, broaden marketing to include cobranding and delivery of services through the retail branch network, and extend customer service to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Mr. Galasso was involved in every aspect along the way, Mr. Jones said. "This helped him develop more as a general manager."

"Steve's a very capable guy," said Mr. Sznewajs. "He's made a big contribution in marketing efforts over the last couple of years."

Mr. Galasso has been in charge of card marketing since he joined the company in 1992. He has launched a secured card product, a photo card, and a cobranded gas card with Sun Co. And he has hired two people to continue cobranding efforts.

A New York native, Mr. Galasso worked for four years as marketing director, responsible for communications, strategic planning, and new products at Citibank.

After obtaining a master's degree in marketing from Fordham University, he became a marketing manager for General Electric Co., then marketing manager at Lever Brothers Inc.

"I'm absolutely delighted" with the latest promotion, Mr. Galasso said. "It will allow us to continue to emphasize the strategies that are working for us."

Key among those is a relationship-based strategy that took hold in 1993 when the bank made its photo card debut. The credit card group worked with the consumer bank, in Arizona and then other states, to strengthen customer relationships by getting cardholders into the branches to have their pictures taken.

Mr. Galasso said the strategy is the primary point of difference between Bank of America and some of its West Coast competitors.

"We have more customer relationships than anyone else," he said. "We've built a lot of strategies around relationship selling, overdraft protection, product linkages, and favorable pricing to customers of the bank that have (demand deposit accounts) with us."

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