Improving product delivery in the face of new payments regulations is among the top priorities for First Data Corp.’s new chief executive.

Jonathan Judge says he plans to work with the company’s other executives to execute on a strategic plan the Atlanta-based payments processor recently developed.

“First Data is a world-class firm in the payments industry with enormous market share, great innovation and a very good management team, to my great fortunate,” Judge said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re a major player in the payments space, and we intend to stay a major player and continue to grow.”

First Data announced Tuesday that Judge, who previously served as president and CEO of Paychex Inc. for six years, would take over as CEO, a position Joe Forehand has held on an interim basis since April. Forehand, who also is a senior advisor with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the private equity firm that owns First Data, will remain as the company’s chairman.

“First Data’s future is taking shape now, and Jon has demonstrated the leadership and ability to take the company into its next stage of growth and development,” Forehand said in a press release.

Industry analysts had previously predicted Forehand would lead the company through an initial public offering, given his experience steering Accenture Ltd. through its IPO as the company’s CEO in 2001.

Judge does not view his appointment as a sign an IPO would not be in the works, though he has not spent any time discussing plans for one. “It should be pretty clear that when you’re dominant owner is a significant player in the private equity community that one of the exit strategies would be an IPO,” Judge says.

The appointment of a permanent CEO is a positive for First Data, which has experienced significant management upheaval this year, notes Aaron McPherson, a practice director at IDC Financial Insights in Framingham, Mass.

However, Judge and his team must contend with a significantly more competitive market. “More banks are getting into markets that First Data used to own,” McPherson says. “The card networks, Visa and MasterCard, themselves are quite clearly competing directly with First Data now for debit processing.”

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