TIMOTHY D. BALLINGER Senior vice president Fifth Third Bancorp, Cincinnati

In electronic banking, Timothy D. Ballinger is a young man with grand ambitions -and the ability to carry them out.

For the past two years, Mr. Ballinger, 39, has run Midwest Payment Systems, the electronic payments unit of Cincinnati's Fifth Third Bancorp.

Even before Mr. Ballinger arrived in early 1990, revenues at MPS had been growing by more than 20% a year. But in 1991, under Mr. Ballinger, revenues grew by nearly 30%. Equally important, MPS contributed an estimated 16% of its parent company's bottom line.

Today, MPS ranks as the nation's second-largest electronic funds transfer outfit, behind Deluxe Data Systems. What's more, MPS steady fee income is a key reason that Fifth Third's stock has consistently outperformed those of its peers.

Despite MPS' success, Mr. Ballinger isn't satisfied. Says he: "I'd like to see us double in size in the next five years."

Mr. Ballinger's talents first became widely known in the mid-1980s, when he was head of processing services at Central Trust, a Cincinnati-based banking company with $6 billion in assets. With Mr. Ballinger at the helm, the processing unit nearly doubled its revenue in 2 1/2 years.

Then, in 1989, after Central Trust was acquired by PNC Financial Corp. of Pittsburgh, Fifth Third executive vice president George Landry asked Mr. Ballinger to jump ship. Mr. Ballinger, who was then heading a funds-transfer unit at PNC, went for it.

"It was a much larger business than I was running, and they wanted it to grow larger," he says.

Electronic funds transfer was once regarded as an outgrowth of correspondent banking relationships, but Mr. Ballinger takes a more aggressive view, which puts him more in line with Fifth Third's entrepreneurial spirit.

"MPS thinks a lot bigger today than it did before," he explains. "We now think like a national processing company."

Already MPS has introduced a home banking service, formed partnerships with banking software vendors, and is considering expanding its business to Europe.

Mr. Ballinger has an undergraduate prelaw degree from the University of Cincinnati and graduate degrees in finance and business administration from Xavier University and in banking from Stonier Graduate School of Banking at the University of Delaware.

He has no regrets about not pursuing his early interest in law. "The best thing that ever happened to me was getting into banking," he says. "I've been able to exercise greater creativity and entreprenuership than I could have in a law career."

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