Deep within the venerable Wachovia Corp., Bruce P. Brett has found an unusual opportunity to run a start-up business.

Mr. Brett moved from Signet Banking Corp., where he was senior vice president for operations services, to head a line of payment services for Wachovia Operational Services Corp.

"It is rare in the banking business that you get to come into a commercial bank and run a new endeavor from the ground up," Mr. Brett said. "I am at a stage in my career where I'm ready to take a little more risk."

The operating services unit of Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Wachovia is offering three services to other banks, which they can "private-label" on resale.

The offerings are image-enabled controlled disbursement, lockbox, and clearing house services. Wachovia already has one significant bank customer for the controlled disbursement service, said Mr. Brett, who will be based in Atlanta.

"By sharing our technology with other financial institutions, we are able to leverage our investment while assisting the institutions in meeting the needs of their customers more efficiently," said Frank L. Zaubi, head of Wachovia Operational Services' banking operations.

Before joining Wachovia in January, Mr. Brett, 46, had spent 10 years at Signet, which merged with First Union Corp. just before he left.

Before that, he was an assistant vice president in treasury management at Riggs National Bank and a senior Federal Reserve analyst, both in Washington, D.C. He helped set prices for the Fed's wholesale services.

A Chicago native, Mr. Brett got a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University and a master's in business administration from Tulane University.

A former chairman of the American Bankers Association check-fraud task force, Mr. Brett helped identify a rise in fraud-related losses at banks, to $815 million in 1993 from $568 million in 1991. The increase was largely due to advances in imaging technology and the exploitation of funds availability rules.

Mr. Brett, who is head of the association's corporate operations committee, knows how to bring together people from different disciplines to accomplish a task, said Charles J. Bock Jr., who served under him as vice chairman of the check-fraud task force.

"He is an excellent communicator and a good leader," said Mr. Bock, Chase Manhattan Bank's director of fraud prevention and investigation.

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