AmEx Adds Burns to the Board

American Express named Ursula Burns, SVP and president of Business Group Operations, Xerox Corporation, to its Board of Directors. Ms. Burns, 45, received a Bachelor of Science degree from Polytechnic Institute of New York in 1980, and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University in 1981. Ms. Burns began her career in 1980 at Xerox where she first held a variety of engineering positions. American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850.

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Shell Canada Extends Sponsorship of the AIR MILES Program

Shell Canada Limited has signed a long-term agreement with Alliance Data Systems, and its The Loyalty Group subsidiary, to continue as a sponsor in the Canadian “AIR MILES” reward program. Shell Canada is one of the top-10 clients and has been a significant, high-frequency sponsor in the “AIR MILES” program for more than 10 years. More than 60% of Canadian households actively collect “AIR MILES” reward miles at more than 100 brand-name sponsors representing over 14,000 retail and service locations across Canada.

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Small Portfolios Command Premiums Up to 26%

When it comes to negotiating premiums for smaller card portfolio sales, size does matter. However,high quality, home grown, and seasoned credit card portfolios can command premiums as high as 26%, regardless of their size. According to R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers, portfolios with less than $1 million in assets generally produce premiums between 4% and 9%. Portfolios in the $1 million to $5 million range usually get a 5% to 15% premium, while portfolios in the $5 million to $10 million bandwidth command premiums ranging from 8% to 16%. Portfolios in the $15 million to $20 million range generally pull an 11% to 26% premium. Hammer says that some premiums paid are misleading since many smaller portfolio deals include an earnings-sharing provision based on future activity, which dilutes the effective premium figure at time of sale.

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Gemplus Achieves CMM Certification in Smart Cards

Gemplus International has achieved the “Capability Maturity Model Level 2” certification, which covers both the smart cards and the “Over The Air” platforms. The “CMM”, developed at Carnegie Mellon
University’s Software Engineering Institute, is considered the industry standard for measuring the maturity of an organization’s software development processes. Gemplus has one of the strongest R&D groups in the industry with 600 smart card R&D engineers in France, Singapore, Germany and China.

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VISA, USAID, and FINCA Launch Global Micro-Finance Program

VISA International, the US Agency for International Development, and the Foundation for International Community Assistance have formed a major public-private partnership that aims to bring new
efficiency and security to microfinance clients in the developing world utilizing electronic payment products. The initiative builds upon a two-year partnership between VISA and FINCA to improve the delivery of financial
services to entrepreneurial women in developing countries. The partnership plans to pilot how VISA solutions will provide FINCA and its clients both cost- and time-saving processes, allowing FINCA to expand
its outreach to more of the world’s poor. Specifically, VISA’s electronic payment solutions will help minimize loan transaction times for both clients and microfinance providers; lower transaction costs for processing loans; provide microfinance clients more secure access to their loan capital; reduce the possibility of cash theft; expand the variety of financial service products available to FINCA’s clients; and, introduce a new market segment to participating commercial banks.

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AmEx Blue Card Launches House of Blues Concerts in LA

American Express began selling tickets on Sunday to its cardholders for concerts at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, scheduled the first week of February, to celebrate the “GRAMMY Awards” and to promote its “Blue Card.” Blue Jam Sessions artists have joined the Blue for Music(R) effort to help raise funds at a time when public school music education programs are being cut nationwide. Again this year American Express is proud to contribute funds raised through Blue for Music activities, beginning with the Blue Jam Sessions in L.A., to the VH1 Save The Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of education in America’s public schools by restoring music programs in cities across the country, and raising awareness about the importance of music participation among our nation’s youth.

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Citigroup’s International Card Portfolio Posts 23% Gain in Loans and 29% Increase in Volume

Citigroup’s credit card loans for the EMEA region increased by $600 million during the fourth quarter to $5.2 billion, a 37% gain over one-year ago, partially driven by the acquisition of Diners Europe. However, Citigroup’s overall international credit card profits dropped to $126 million for 4Q/03, a 24% decline from the previous quarter, primarily due to a significant increase in the issuer’s provision for credit losses and costs associated with its expansion into Russia and China. Net charge-offs were 3.84% for 4Q/03 compared to 4.21% one-year ago. The 90-day delinquency rate was 1.76% compared to 1.78% for 4Q/02. Total revenues, for credit cards issued outside North America, came in at $746 million, a 25% increase over 4Q/02. But, the provision for losses increased 47% year-over-year to $423 million, a $94 million increase from the previous quarter. At the end of the year, Citigroup had 15.8 million card accounts, representing $14.7 billion of card loans, in its international card portfolio. Total card volume for the fourth quarter was $11.7 billion, a 29% increase over one-year ago. Latin America card loans increased 25% to $500 million, while Asia (except Japan) increased 17%. Japan posted a 9% increase to $1.2 billion, a two-year high.

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FDIC is the Latest Victim of a Phishing Attack

At approximately 12:00 p.m. (EST) on January 23, 2004, FDIC Consumer Call Centers in Kansas City, Missouri, and Washington, D.C., began receiving a large number of complaints by consumers who received an email that has the appearance of being sent from the FDIC. The email informs the recipient that Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has advised the FDIC to suspend all deposit insurance on the recipient’s bank account due to suspected violations of the USA PATRIOT Act. The email further indicates that deposit insurance will be suspended until personal identity, including bank account information, can be verified.

This email was not sent by the FDIC and is a fraudulent attempt to obtain personal information from consumers. Financial institutions and consumers should NOT access the link provided within the body of the email and should NOT under any circumstances provide any personal information through this media.

The FDIC and the FBI are attempting to identify the source of the emails and disrupt the transmission.

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The Credit Card Research Group Shuts Down After Ten Years

The Credit Card Research Group, a lobby group funded by the country’s credit card issuers, has shut down. The group was formed in 1993 to provide statistics and industry data on the payment card business. The CCRG Web site went dark on December 31st. Apacs, the banks’ clearing organization, says it will take over publishing the data previously produced by the lobby group. CCRG published monthly data on credit and debit card volume, plus card outstandings. The UK card business has recently been under close scrutiny for its disclosure practices. The country’s card issuers have also been criticized by the government for assessing very high interest rates during a period when other interest rates have hit 40-year lows.

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Wells Up 10%+ in Outstandings and 13%+ in Q4 Volume

Wells Fargo Card Services and Wells Fargo Financial Bank reported fourth quarter outstandings of $7,512,914,108, a 10.3% increase over the same period one year ago. Fourth quarter card volume rose 44% for Wells Fargo Financial Bank, and nearly 11% for Wells Fargo Card Services. Combined, Wells Fargo Card Services and Wells Fargo Financial Bank reported 4Q/03 volume of $4,222,421,863, a 13.5% increase over 4Q/02, according to CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]). At the end of the fourth quarter, Wells had 3,909,580 active accounts, an 11.4% increase over the prior year. In its earnings reports, Wells noted that its overall net credit losses for the fourth quarter were $465 million, including a $30 million loss on the sale of a sub-prime credit card portfolio. For complete details on Wells Fargo Card Services and Wells Fargo Financial Bank fourth quarter results visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][2]).

Issuer 4Q/03 Outstandings 4Q/03 Volume 4Q/03 Actives
Wells Fargo Card Services (IA) $6.2b(+8.8%) $3.8b(+10.7%) 3.4m(+6.8%)
Wells Fargo Financial Bank (SD) $1.3b(+17.0%) $375.3m(+44.2%) 539.6k(+46.7%)
Total $7.5b(+10.3%) $4.2b(+13.5%) 3.9m(+11.4%)

Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

[1]: http://www.carddata.com
[2]: http://www.carddata.com

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Datacard Group Adds Two Image Capture Solutions

Datacard Group has introduced “Tru Photo” and “Tru Photo Professional” solutions that automate and simplify image capture. The new Datacard Truâ„¢ photo solutions greatly improve speed, simplicity and user control in the photo ID production process. Tru Photo software features an auto-capture capability that allows users to simply click on a photo field and capture an image without panning or tilting the camera. The system automatically crops the photo and presents the operator with the image. The entire process takes about seven seconds.

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Wausau Financial Systems and Epson Sign a VAR Deal

WI-based Wausau Financial Systems and Epson have signed a VAR agreement making available financial related printers and imaging solutions nationwide. This official agreement allows WFS to offer Epson’s teller station printers with digital check and ID imaging. These devices can be configured with TellerProof(tm), the image based teller solution from WFS. Epson offers an extensive array of POS printers and transaction terminals for the retail, hospitality, supermarket and banking markets. Wausau Financial Systems is the recognized leader in the development and implementation of knowledge-based products for the payment and transaction processing industry.

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