When he was head of First USA, Richard W. Vague used to tell a story on the lecture circuit about the time one of his managers suggested a partnership with America Online, and he approved it despite his misgivings — it was the mid-1990s, and he did not buy into the whole Internet thing.

The deal turned out to be a big success for First USA, and Mr. Vague became a popular conference speaker, evangelizing the Internet to the still-skeptical.

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