MasterCard International announced the resignation last week of its chief of remote banking and said it would move that activity into a division that also oversees debit card activities.
Observers said the reorganization was a sign that MasterCard's home banking efforts, under the MasterBanking moniker, have been faltering.
The senior vice president in charge of remote banking and strategic planning, A. Christian Fredrick, is resigning to become managing director of the financial services practice at Dove Associates, a Boston-based management consulting firm.
Mr. Fredrick, 50, has headed MasterBanking since July 1994. He joins Dove on April 1. He said the new job will allow him to take a broader view of banking technology.
MasterCard said it will merge MasterBanking and its Remittance Processing Service, which handles electronic bill payments, with U.S. debit services. The resulting "deposit access" unit will also include MasterMoney and Maestro debit cards and the Cirrus automated teller program.
Senior vice president Sheila Scarry will head U.S. deposit access, reporting to U.S. region president Alan Heuer. J. Randall Peyser, a MasterCard vice president in the remote banking area, will temporarily fill in for Mr. Fredrick, reporting to Ms. Scarry.
MasterBanking has been in considerable flux. MasterCard recently seemed set to replace payment-service partner Checkfree Corp. with Servantis Systems Inc. - but then Checkfree acquired Servantis.
Last fall, Janet Hartung, who was working with Mr. Fredrick on MasterBanking, departed for Wells Fargo & Co.
Mr. Fredrick - a 22-year veteran of Fleet Financial Group - replaced Glenn Santmire, who left in mid-1994.
"MasterCard's early entry in home banking put it in a No. 1 position," said Mr. Santmire, now group vice president for financial services at Unisys Corp. Now, he added, MasterCard seems to be "losing market presence. Any time you have a successive number of changes in management it affects momentum."
One banker said MasterBanking "had some of the best banks in the country in their hands, and they've let them slip through their fingers."
A MasterCard spokeswoman tried to counter this impression, saying 20 banks have signed on for MasterCard's remote services, and 15 have active programs.
Another source said the changes at MasterBanking reflect differences in outlook between MasterCard International chief executive Eugene Lockhart and his predecessor, Alex W. Hart, now chief executive at Advanta Corp.
A banker source said MasterCard has never put enough resources into MasterBanking to make it a success.
David Weisman, an analyst with Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass., said MasterCard "has not taken a very aggressive position" in remote banking, and its moves "continue to give the illusion of instability."