Key Federal Savings Bank, the small Maryland thrift that specializes in secured credit cards, wants to be known also as a processor of other banks' credit card programs.

Key Operations Center Inc., the , thrift's Havre de Grace, Md., credit card division, has been handling the card processing for a handful of banks since 1985, but there was no formal program in place.

That changed last month, when Gwen Allegretto was hired as Key Federal's first director of processing services.

Ms. Allegretto, 31, is focusing on building Key Federal's credit card processing business for both secured and unsecured cards. Key Federal will also provide marketing services, but it will not own the card receivables.

Ms. Allegretto will likely sign on five small banks a year for the thrift's marketing and processing services, said Robert M. Bouza, president of Key Federal's card operations.

"Her efforts will be instrumental in recruiting other banks for whom we can develop both unsecured and secured card programs," he said, "thereby fueling our continued growth."

Mr. Bouza sees Key Federal's push into card processing as a way to help the thrift compete in the card business without spending a lot of money to market its product.

Key Federal, one of the first issuers of secured cards, feels squeezed by some of the larger issuers who have entered that specialty market over the past two years or so.

"The bank has finally said, 'let's not limit ourselves to one thing," said Mr. Bouza, referring to the thrift's emphasis on secured credit cards.

Ms. Allegretto's professional experience, interestingly, does not include banking.

Prior to joining Key Federal she was the president of the National Association of American Families in Destin, Fla., which provides special members' benefits and fund raising programs for church groups and other nonprofit organizations.

Ms. Allegretto worked with Key Federal in developing its affinity credit card program with the Church of God in Christ. She implemented the church's sales and marketing strategies for that program.

She will operate from her home office in Florida, Mr. Bouza said, but will spend significant time traveling as a representative of the thrift.

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