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A take-charge pro who shares credit for his success.

First Data's Eula L. Adams owes his rise in the credit card business to mentors and determination

NAME: Eula L. Adams

AGE: 51

TITLE: Executive vice president

COMPANY: First Data Corp.

TENURE: Nine Years

EDUCATION: B.S. in accounting, Morris Brown University, 1972: M.B.A., Harvard Business School, 1976

FAMILY: Married for 27 years to college sweetheart, Janet: one son, Kevin, 22.

Eula L. Adams is one of six executive vice presidents at $6 billion Atlanta-based First Data, which is comprised of Western Union, First Data Merchant Services, and First Data Resources (FDR). Adams heads up FDR, a $1.5 billion business that pulls in 27% of the corporation's revenue. He manages 11,000 employees in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. It is the largest third-party processor of Visa and MasterCard, as well as retail and debit cards. Over 1,400 card issuers worldwide rely on FDR for everything from embossing, issuing, and activating cards to distributing statements and customer service.

* FYI: FDR processed an estimated 7.7 billion cardholder transactions in 1999. On December 22, 1999, alone, it processed more than 800 transactions per second.

Adams' background: An admitted "C" student from the projects in Jacksonville, Florida, Adams landed a football scholarship to Morris Brown College in Atlanta. He was the first of his family to attend college. Accounting came easy to him, so it became his major. He earned academic honors and was accepted into Harvard's M.B.A. program.

Before heading to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Adams studied for his CPA license and worked for two years at Touche Ross in 1972, then one of the nation's Big Eight accounting firms. Adams returned to Touche Ross after grad school in '76 and credits several mentors at the firm with putting him on the path to partnership. In 1983, he became the firm's first African American partner.

* No fear: Adams' quick ascent was no easy climb. "I was intimidated at every step along the way. I'm naturally insecure" he admits. Mentors--from James Small, the high school football coach who encouraged him to go to college, to Wesley Smith, a college friend now deceased) who helped him study--helped build his confidence, but he always had a desire to achieve. "I've never had a fear of failure. There's no assignment I'm reluctant to take on." He was put in charge of the firm's audit functions in 1988--one year before Touche Ross would become Deloitte & Touche.

* Time for change: In 1991, Adams was lured over to American Express Information Services Corp., First Data Corp.'s predecessor, as chief financial officer, then chief administrative officer. Ninety days after his arrival, the company went public, boasting the fifth largest IPO in business history at the rime, says Adams. He spearheaded the corporation's acquisition of First Financial Management (owners of Western Union) in 1995, went over to lead the Merchant Services Group in 1998, and was asked to work his magic at First Data Resources last February.

* Proudest career moment: A huge staff reduction was under way when Adams inherited the Merchant Services group, which handles all point-of-sale purchases for First Data clients. He provided the short-term focus needed to get the business' profitability back on track. It became one of the stellar performers of the company. "Hearing analysts comment on the performance [after the turnaround], I've never been more proud. It was the best job I ever had--until this one."

* Biggest professional challenge: Before Adams headed First Data Resources, it was the largest arm of the company. Now, it's the smallest. "The level of employee morale is nowhere near where I would like. Expectations are great and customers are counting on us to grow their business," says Adams. His immediate goal is finding a way to maintain profitability while producing significant growth within 12-18 months.

* Advice to corporate ladder climbers: "You never know where one path may lead you. Don't be afraid to take on new assignments. A lot of doors have been opened to me because of my willingness, flexibility, curiosity, and ambition."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:First Data Corp.'s Eula L. Adams
Author:Wright, Heather Keets
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2001
Previous Article:Use it or lose out.
Next Article:ON THE MOVE.

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