James H. Blanchard, chairman and chief executive officer of Synovus Financial Corp. of Columbus, Ga., will take over as chairman of the board of the Banking Industry Technology Secretariat at the group's annual meeting next month.

Mr. Blanchard, who was elected in September to a two-year term, will succeed Edward E. Crutchfield, the chairman and CEO of First Union Corp. The succession will take place at the Financial Services Roundtable's annual meeting, which is set for April 6-8 in Phoenix. BITS is a division of the Financial Services Roundtable, and it advises top executives on technology and payment infrastructure issues.

Charles Gifford, chairman and CEO of FleetBoston Corp., will remain vice chairman.

BITS has focused recently on privacy and security issues related to on-line payments. Last year it opened a security laboratory in Reston, Va., in conjunction with major technology companies. The lab, operated by the security consulting firm Global Integrity Corp., encourages companies to meet standards for computer products and programs.

Other BITS priorities are the promotion of electronic check presentment and the interactive financial exchange specification for electronic payments.

Mr. Blanchard, 59, was president of Columbus Bank and Trust Co., Synovus' lead bank, before assuming his current post in 1986. He is credited with leading Synovus' growth from a one-bank holding company to a multibillion-dollar financial services company. He was also instrumental in the formation in 1983 of Total System Services Inc., one of the country's leading card processors, which Synovus owns.

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