Mailboxes stuffed with credit-card offers meant hot competition and falling profits in '97 for most card companies. But CHARLES M. CAWLEY, president of MBNA, No.2 in the industry, pushed net income up about 30%, to an estimated $620 million. Cawley, 57, has built his success with customized group cards, offered to everyone from university alumni to members of a duck-hunting club. Only Citicorp is larger.

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