In keeping with its goal to grow beyond conventional transaction processing, Vital Processing Services, a joint venture of Visa U.S.A. and Total System Services Inc., has named veteran banker Antonia Shusta executive vice president of client services.

Ms. Shusta, a former Citibank and Household International Inc. executive, joined Tempe, Ariz.- based Vital on Nov. 29. She reports to president and chief executive officer Jonathan Palmer and works out of the company's Columbus, Ga., office.

Vital - the second-largest processor of merchant payments - is aggressively pursuing new product offerings, Mr. Palmer said. Though its future is dependent on its core business, the company is focusing heavily on nontraditional merchant support services, including Web storefront design, data mining, loyalty programs, and marketing support.

"I wanted the challenge of growing a business … in a situation where there really is no prototype," Ms. Shusta, 49, said in an interview. "We're inventing the prototype."

The Harvard/Radcliffe College graduate is used to being on the front lines. "In virtually all my other jobs, I've been managing large groups of people through rapid change," she said. "It's very similar here."

From 1972 to 1988 she worked at Citibank in international and domestic banking, consumer as well as corporate. As head of a division of Citibank Latin America in the mid-1980s she was involved in the debt crisis, negotiating loan collections with Latin American governments.

In 1988, Ms. Shusta joined consumer finance giant Household International, where she spent eight years, ultimately as one of three group executives appointed to the office of the president. In the early 1990s she worked for the company's United Kingdom operation.

Ms. Shusta helped create Household's consumer banking and mortgage businesses, both of which have since been sold. "We had done a really amazing job at Household building those businesses into revenue generators," she said.

From 1996 to 1998, Ms. Shusta was chief operating officer at Pacific Financial Group, a privately held financial services group in Central America. Most recently she was a management consultant for a number of biotech and telecommunications companies.

Mr. Palmer, who joined Vital this year, said Ms. Shusta's appointment is a result of the company's restructuring. Marc Cochrane, who is now senior vice president of business development, had been the interim head of client services for several months.

Discussing his company's new strategy and Ms. Shusta's role in it, Mr. Palmer said: "In a buyer-driven world, where the buyers have more choices and are more demanding, it's incumbent on the merchants to deliver more value, not just price.

"The future for us depends on our helping our acquirers help their merchants do more business - not just do their business effectively but do more. 'Tonia is the leader we've been looking for."

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