Vital Processing Services Inc. has filled out its senior management team with two card industry veterans.

The fifty-fifty merchant processing venture of Visa U.S.A. and Total System Services Inc. named Gerard Ballard, 40, chief information officer and Eric Turille, 47, vice president of operations.

Vital opened in Tempe, Ariz., in 1996 to give banks an alternative to First Data Corp. and other nonbanks that specialize in card services for merchants. A similar venture, Global Payment Systems, was formed by MasterCard International and National Data Corp., with National Data the majority owner.

Industry experts said Vital's recruits, well regarded in card technology and processing circles, could help develop a sharper strategic focus.

"Vital has all the potential in the world," said Paul Martaus, president, Martaus and Associates, Clearwater, Fla. But it "has a lack of vision."

Mr. Turille, previously senior vice president of sales at National Processing Inc. of Louisville, "has a strong operational background and is highly regarded and well respected," Mr. Martaus added. "He'll bring a very strong hand to that organization."

Mr. Ballard, formerly of Equifax Card Services in St. Petersburg, Fla., and its FBS Software unit, will manage Vital's technology initiatives, including development of authorization, capture, clearing, and settlement systems.

"These are great hires," said Robert Hyer, director, Smith Barney Inc. "Both have a great deal of experience and will bring a lot to the management team."

Before joining Equifax, where he was vice president and technical services manager, Mr. Ballard was technology manager for the General Motors card business at Electronic Data Systems Corp., Plano, Tex. He was also international consulting manager for EDS' electronic commerce division.

Mr. Turille, who will manage Vital's national acquirer and merchant help desk, merchant conversion unit, and customer service division. He spent 23 years at First National Bank of Omaha and as president of the merchant services division presided over its growth into the sixth-largest merchant acquirer. Its annual transaction volume is $15.6 billion, according to The Nilson Report, Oxnard, Calif.

Mr. Martaus said Mr. Turille made contacts for First National with independent sales organizations to boost its volume and built an in-house operation because he "did not want to be held captive to outside organizations for technological solutions."

Fred O. Gumbel, president and chief executive officer of Vital, said: "We've taken the opportunity to bring some folks in that have a great deal of experience either in technology or in running merchant bank card businesses."

He said the two additions, who both report to him, complete Vital's senior management team.

"We're really getting some leverage now," Mr. Gumbel said. "Keeping up with the growth of the company is now the major challenge."

Vital also hired Marc Cochrane as senior vice president of operational fulfillment services, responsible for customer service, underwriting, and chargeback processing.

Previously vice president and territory manager for Wells Fargo & Co. and First Interstate Bank, he reports to Michael M. Peters, executive vice president and chief financial officer. u

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