Scott Loftesness, a senior executive at Visa International who was recently named head of a new strategic group, has left the association to join First Data Corp.

Mr. Loftesness, 47, becomes executive vice president of product and service management in First Data's electronic funds services group, which was organized earlier this year by another former Visa executive, Roger Peirce.

Mr. Loftesness' departure, within weeks of his promotion at Visa, surprised his former colleagues there. However, Mr. Peirce, who recruited Mr. Loftesness to San Francisco-based Visa in 1985, said he knew his friend was "really misplaced."

"Scott likes things more tangible and having line responsibility," said Mr. Peirce. "He didn't care for the direction his new job was taking him in."

Long-Term Planning

In April, Visa International's president and chief executive, Edmund P. Jensen, announced that he had put Mr. Loftesness in charge of a group called advanced payment system strategies.

The newly formed unit is responsible for defining technologies and strategies and identifying areas of the payment business in which Visa should be involved over the next five to 10 years.

Mr. Loftesness admitted he was not right for the job.

"On one level I guess I had the perfect job, thinking about Visa over the next decade," said Mr. Loftesness. But he added, "I didn't appreciate the long-term" aspects of such a role.

Hands-On Approach

Mr. Loftesness described himself as one who enjoys strategic thinking, but he also desires day-to-day involvement and results.

Weighing options about the future of payment systems, he said, "has no reality today. It is interesting cocktail conversation."

In his new role at First Data, Mr. Loftesness is responsible for evaluating and pricing products and services to ensure that they are competitive.

Mr. Peirce described Mr. Loftesness' job as "the heart and soul" of First Data.

The electronic funds services group was formed at the start of this year with Mr. Peirce as president. At Visa, he was the chief technology officer and architect of its highly sophisticated global networks. Both day-to-day managers and strategic planners reported to him.

Coast-to-Coast Operation

Mr. Peirce's current business unit, with six other key executives including Mr. Loftesness, is based in Menlo Park, Calif. First Data Corp.'s headquarters is Hackensack, N.J., and its largest business unit, the credit card processor First Data Resources, is in Omaha, Neb.

First Data Corp. was growing so rapidly, said Mr. Peirce, that senior management decided to break up some of the core businesses so they could be managed more easily.

The electronic funds services group has four major divisions - private label oil cards, retail store private label cards, debit cards, and merchant processing.

Mr. Loftesness, again reporting to Mr. Peirce, said that over the past two weeks he has been focusing on the merchant business, which is the largest of the four divisions.

Continuing Effort

Mr. Loftesness' hiring is part of First Data Corp.'s continuing effort to build a world-class management team, Mr. Peirce said.

More evidence of that drive came at the end of May when First Data hired Jerry D. Craft, widely regarded as one of the top bank credit card managers, away from Wachovia Corp.'s consumer credit services division.

Mr. Loftesness, like Mr. Peirce, traces his career roots to International Business Machines Corp. He worked there for 17 years prior to joining Visa as a vice president in 1985. In 1989, he left Visa for Fidelity Investments in Boston, but decided after two years that he preferred living in his native California.

A spokesman for Visa International said that Mr. Loftesness' replacement has not yet been named. The association, he said, "regrets that [Mr. Loftesness] left. He made quite a contribution at Visa and was instrumental in Visa's entry into remote banking."

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