Flex Convenience Card

mbi, the leading provider of health care debit cards for pre-tax benefits administration, announced it has received a $5 million financing commitment from private equity funds managed by Mesirow Financial, a Chicago-based diversified financial services firm. mbi will use the proceeds to further enhance its leadership position in the employee benefits marketplace. Terms of the financing were not disclosed.

“We are thrilled to have a leading institution like Mesirow Financial as a financial partner,” said Rob Butler, vice-president of sales and marketing for mbi. “We intend to direct the proceeds toward increasing sales, marketing and technology initiatives that will allow mbi to accelerate its growth rate and better serve its customers. As a result of the recent IRS ruling affirming debit cards for use with health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), we have an even more compelling reason to further invest in and improve what is already a great tool.”

Health care debit cards, introduced to the marketplace by mbi in 1998, allow employees to pay for eligible health care expenses with a card that looks and acts like a debit card, rather than submitting claims and being reimbursed.

“We are excited to be partnering with mbi,” said Josh Daitch, vice president of Mesirow Financial. “By all measurements, they are clearly the market leader with the best technology platform and a highly skilled and seasoned team. In a high-potential market such as this for health care debit cards, it was important for us to invest in the leading company with the strongest upside. In mbi, we’ve done that.”

mbi has been funded to date with capital contributed from Wind Point Partners, a leading middle market private equity firm. Jim Forrest, Managing Director at Wind Point, states, “Mesirow Financial is a terrific partner to assist mbi in further enhancing its strong market leadership position. We look forward to great things ahead.”

About mbi ()

Founded in 1995, mbi introduced the first debit card to the healthcare industry for pre-tax benefit administration of FSAs, HRAs, Transit, Dependent Care and other defined contribution plans. The mbi Flex Convenience(R) Card enables employees using health reimbursement arrangements to pay for eligible healthcare expenses wherever MasterCard(R) is accepted, including physician and dental offices, pharmacies and vision service facilities. More than 200 Third-Party Administrators offer the mbi Flex Convenience(R) card to provide over 4000 employers, such as BellSouth, CompUSA, eBay and SC Johnson, and close to 300,000 employees enjoy the advantages of mbi’s system.

About Mesirow Financial ()

Mesirow Financial is a diversified financial services firm headquartered in Chicago. Founded in 1937, it is an employee-owned, private company with more than 700 employees in 12 offices across the country. The firm is well capitalized with more than $5 billion in assets under management and fiscal 2003 revenues over $200 million.



United Nations Federal Credit Union, with a worldwide membership consisting of staff from the UN and its specialized agencies, UN retirees and their families, joined CO-OP Network, which offers access to more than 17,000 surcharge-free ATMs across the United States and Canada as well as linking to 800,000 ATMs globally.

“The UNFCU membership creates a unique challenge for their credit union — to provide product and service offerings that meet the special needs of more than 57,000 members spread across the globe,” says CO-OP Network CEO Robert Rose. “In fact, UNFCU and CO-OP Network share a common vision as cooperatives — we’re continually seeking new ways to serve our respective members. We’re proud UNFCU, whose guiding principle is ‘Serving the People Who Serve the World,’ recognizes the advantages of being a member of CO-OP Network.

“Back in February, Navy Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in the world, became a CO-OP Network member. Now with UNFCU coming on board, it establishes an interesting trend whereby credit unions with members dotting the globe are looking to CO-OP Network to provide their ATM connection.”

UNFCU, founded in 1947 (the United Nations was founded 24 October 1945) and governed by a volunteer board comprised of current and former UN members, has two full-service branches in New York City as well as liaison offices in Geneva, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria, and, most recently, Nairobi, Kenya. With more than $1.7 billion in assets, UNFCU is ranked among the 30 largest credit unions in the United States.

“The alliance with CO-OP Network is part of our overall strategy to continually keep our members financially connected,” said Michael J. Connery, Jr., president and CEO of UNFCU. “We’re delighted to be partnering with an industry leader whose burgeoning ATM network will be meeting the needs of our own growing membership.”

CO-OP Network ([www.co-opnetwork.org][1]), established in 1981 and headquartered in Ontario, Calif., is wholly-owned by its credit union shareholders and provides volume discounts on products and services that include risk management as well as debit and deposit access. With 1,219 credit union members, more than 17,000 surcharge-free ATMs and 16 million cardholders, CO-OP Network is the No. 1 credit union ATM network in the U.S. financial services industry. CO-OP Network, whose membership has access to 800,000 ATMs worldwide through links to Star, Cirrus and Plus, also offers national shared branch services through its subsidiary, Service Centers Corporation, based in Southfield, Mich.

[1]: http://www.co-opnetwork.org


NetBank and SkyMiles

NetBank, the country’s first commercially successful Internet bank, has partnered with Delta Air Lines to enable SkyMiles members an additional opportunity to earn miles for using various NetBank services. Members can now earn a one-time bonus of up to 7,000 miles when registering for NetBank services, such as online checking accounts, money market accounts, direct deposit and online bill payment services.

“NetBank’s services are designed to meet the needs of busy professionals, like business travelers, allowing them to bank when, where and how they like,” said Eve McDowell, chief sales & customer fulfillment executive for NetBank. “We encourage SkyMiles members to bank in the industry’s most convenient and versatile setting while earning a considerable amount of miles at the same time.”

SkyMiles can be earned with NetBank in the following ways:

— 2,500 miles for opening and funding a NetValue or SuperValue checking account;

— 2,500 miles for opening and funding a NetVantage Money Market(TM) Account;

— 1,500 miles for initiating direct deposit with NetBank; and

— 500 miles for enrolling in and using NetBank’s online bill payment service.

Members can learn more about earning miles through NetBank services by visiting [www.netbank.com/delta][1].

“We are excited to provide our SkyMiles members with yet another way to earn miles through services that fulfill everyday needs,” said Christine Pierce, Delta’s director of Partnership Marketing. “The flexibility of NetBank’s services and the generous mileage offer create a valuable opportunity for our members who are constantly on the go.”

All standard SkyMiles program rules and conditions apply. To join Delta’s SkyMiles program, visit [www.delta.com/skymiles][2].

About NetBank

NetBank(R) is the country’s first commercially successful Internet bank. NetBank currently has $2.4 billion in deposits and serves customers in all 50 states and more than 20 foreign countries. Its full line of financial services is designed around the needs and lifestyles of its customers. Through a branchless business model, NetBank operates at a fraction of the cost of a traditional bank. Since its start in 1996, NetBank has passed its cost savings to customers through more competitive deposit rates and free account services, such as online bill payment. Through its mortgage lending subsidiaries, Market Street Mortgage(R) and RBMG(R), NetBank ranks as a top 30 U.S. mortgage lender. NetBank, Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC, is a primary operating subsidiary of NetBank, Inc. (Nasdaq: NTBK), a diversified financial services company. For more information on NetBank’s products and services, please visit [www.netbank.com][3].

About Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles members earn mileage by flying Delta, Delta Connection carriers, Delta Express, Delta Shuttle and Delta’s airline partners, including Delta’s SkyTeam partners. The Delta SkyMiles program offers many other mileage-building opportunities, including the Delta SkyMiles(R) Credit Card from American Express, AT&T telecommunication services, EarthLink(TM) Internet services, participating hotels, car rental companies, restaurants, home buying and selling, cruise line and flower purchases.

About Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines, the world’s second largest airline in terms of passengers carried and the leading U.S. carrier across the Atlantic, offers 5,386 flights each day to 435 destinations in 78 countries on Delta, Song, Delta Express, Delta Shuttle, Delta Connection and Delta’s worldwide partners. Delta is a founding member of SkyTeam, a global airline alliance that provides customers with extensive worldwide destinations, flights and services. For more information, please go to [www.delta.com][4].

[1]: http://www.netbank.com/delta
[2]: http://www.delta.com/skymiles
[3]: http://www.netbank.com
[4]: http://www.delta.com



The Reserve Bank of India has issued new rules permitting residents who maintain foreign currency accounts in India to obtain international credit cards issued by financial institutions outside the country. However, restrictions on the use of international credit cards by residents for the purchase of lottery tickets, banned magazines, participation in sweepstakes, and payment for call back services would continue to apply. In January, the RBI lifted its $10,000 annual limit on foreign credit card spending by consumers and its $25,000 for annual restriction on international business travel credit card spending as mandated by the Foreign Exchange Management Act. The RBA says credit card users will now be limited by their credit card credit lines and will no longer need special permission to exceed the annual RBA limits. Under the current RBA rules, the credit limit for a “Classic”/”Silver” credit card is between Rs 15,000-Rs 50,000 (apprx. $300 and $1000); “Gold” card credit limits are now between Rs 50,000-Rs 300,000 (apprx. $1000 and $6000); and, “Platinum” card credit limits begin at Rs 500,000 (apprx. $10,000). India has about six million credit cards and the average annual credit card volume per card of about Rs 17,000 ($350). There are less than 10,000 “Platinum” credit cards in the country.


Smart Cards 2002

Brussels-based Eurosmart reported that banking/retail smart cards grew 16% last year worldwide, reaching 175 million units. The industry group predicts that smart cards in this category will grow 17.1% in 2003 to hit 205 million units. Overall, more than 700 million microprocesor-based smart cards were shipped last year, with telecom making up 430 million of the total shipments. Eurosmart also reported that shipments of smart cards containing a memory chip with read/write capability and in some cases hardwired security functions totalled more than 1 billion last year, with 95% used in telecom. Memory cards are not considered smart cards by many. Eurosmart is the main international smart card association, representing the “Voice of the Smart Card Industry” for multi-sector applications.



The Federal Court hearing over credit card reforms entered its second week as attorneys representing The Reserve Bank of Australia insisted that a thorough review was conducted prior to the adoption of the new rules. RBA attorneys say that sufficient empirical evidence was gathered before they decided to cut interchange fees and permit retailers to surcharge customers for credit card transactions. Last week, VISA and MasterCard argued they are not payment systems under the definitions used in the “Payment Systems Act.” VISA and MasterCard also say the RBA rushed the reforms. The new RBA rule, cutting interchange from 95 bps to 55-60 bps per transaction, will cost bank credit card issuers about US$300 million per year. The Federal Court hearing is expected to last up to six weeks.


Hudson’s Bay 1Q/03

Toronto-based Hudson’s Bay Company reported that its financial division posted a 22% gain in first quarter credit card outstandings to $478 million. HBC says the increase in credit card receivables reflects the higher credit card blend at the Bay and Zellers stores and additional third party volumes. As of April 30th, there were 1.4 million active Bay credit card accounts and 1.4 million active Zellers credit card accounts. The current and 30 days past due balance represented 94.5% of the receivable portfolio, compared to 94.9% at April 30, 2002. During the first quarter, the number of charge-off accounts decreased by 8%. Of the dollars charged-off, the value of bankrupt accounts increased from last year by $1.7 million. Net bad debt expense in 1Q/03 of $22.2 million was $4.6 million higher than 1Q/02. For complete details on HBC’s first quarter results visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

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



VISA, Australia’s Catuity, and France’s Welcome Real-time have hammered-out a patent cross license agreement to increase the availability of interoperable systems for smart-card based loyalty rewards at the POS. Catuity and Welcome Real-Time had been embroiled in a patent dispute in 2001 over smart card loyalty software. The companies settled their disputes in April 2002. Under the “VISA Loyalty Program Patent Agreement,” announced this morning, the three companies will cross license existing and future patents for VISA smart loyalty programs. This cross license will be worldwide and royalty-free until the last patent expires. The cross license will extend to all Visa affiliates, members and merchants. Participants will develop and promote interoperable loyalty solutions by integrating the VISA interoperability toolkits within their platforms.


Translucent Cards

Capital One has launched a new series of translucent credit cards promoted as “See-Through Designs.” The issuer, known for unique card designs, unveiled the new suite of “Platinum MasterCards” with May’s direct mailings. The new cards are available in seven see-through colors including amber, blue, gray, green, orange, purple, and red, according to CardWatch ([www.cardwatch.com][1]). American Express was the first major U.S. issuer to adopt the translucent card design with the 1999 introduction of its “Blue” smart card. MBNA followed with the launch of its translucent “Quantum VISA/MasterCard.” In September 2000, Providian introduced a translucent card with the introduction of the first ‘smart VISA’ cards in the USA. Other issuers have since followed the trend. Oberthur, Perfect Plastic Printing, and most card manufacturers now offer some version of translucent or clear payments cards. (CF Library 6/16/00; 7/7/00; 10/26/00; 4/30/01)

[1]: http://www.cardwatch.com


OTI 1Q/03

Contactless smart card specialist OTI reported first quarter revenues of $4.7 million, a 14% gain over the year-ago quarter. Gross profit for first quarter was $2.4 million, up 24% from $1.9 million in the first quarter of last year. Operating loss for first quarter decreased 49%, to $654,000. OTI says it saw significant progress in its petroleum payment management and micropayments products. Since the end of the quarter, OTI announced that it is providing integrated point-of-sale solutions to Loews Cineplex as part of MasterCard’s “PayPass” trial in Orlando, Florida. The Company also recently announced that ABSA, the largest commercial bank in South Africa, had joined OTI’s “FuelMaster Express Program” geared towards private motorists.


5/3 Cardinal Centinel

Today, CardinalCommerce Corporation and Fifth Third Bank announced that they have signed an agreement to provide Fifth Third online merchants with CardinalCommerce’s payment authentication software, Cardinal Centinel.

CardinalCommerce will enable MasterCard® SecureCode(TM) and Verified by Visa® to authenticate cardholders during online transactions at participating merchants. The service requires cardholders to enter their private password in a pop-up window on their PC before their online transaction can be approved and completed. With these extra security measures, members can be confident that their account is protected, and Fifth Third Bank merchants gain greater assurance about the identity of the person completing the transaction.

CardinalCommerce is the leading provider of online merchant payment authentication for securing online transactions. Cardinal Centinel is designed for financial institutions, merchant service providers and their merchants. The software reduces the level of online fraudulent transactions and guarantees payment to online merchants who use it, while protecting the accounts of cardholders.

“Fifth Third Bank is one of the leading merchant acquiring banks in the United States,” stated James Butler, Executive Vice President for Cardinal Commerce. “Fifth Third’s selection of CardinalCommerce as their provider of payment authentication services is a great compliment. Their merchants will gain immediate benefits with our software by eliminating their fraud liability, gaining guaranteed payments for the first time, and increasing the security and confidence of online customers.”

Robert A. Sullivan, Fifth Third Bank Executive Vice President, offers, “Payment authentication is very important to our online merchants–they want an easy to use, reliable system and CardinalCommerce was able to provide that. Cardinal Centinel has the leading-edge technology Fifth Third customers have come to expect and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with CardinalCommerce.”

CardinalCommerce Corporation is a leading provider of a technology-neutral authentication platform for securing electronic and wireless commerce, thus ensuring that individuals, businesses and government agencies can process electronic transactions and access confidential information safely, securely and privately. Cardinal’s proprietary technology provides consumers, merchants, credit/debit card issuers, and processors the ability to conduct fully authenticated Internet-based e-commerce, while protecting the transactions from fraud. Cardinal Centinel has been chosen as the solution for merchants by more acquirers, processors, gateways and merchants around the world then any other 3D Secure product. CardinalCommerce is based in Cleveland, Ohio, and has partners throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India. For more information, visit [www.cardinalcommerce.com][1].

Fifth Third Bank processes 8.2 billion ATM and POS transactions per year for more than 185,000 retail locations and financial institutions worldwide, including The Kroger Co., Abercrombie & Fitch, Nordstrom, Inc. and The Finish Line. Fifth Third processes $83 billion in credit card sales annually. Fifth Third Bank is the fifth largest bank acquirer according to The Nilson Report (March, 2003).

Fifth Third Bancorp is a diversified financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Company has $84 billion in assets, operates 17 affiliates with 941 full-service Banking Centers, including 132 Bank Mart® locations open seven days a week inside select grocery stores and 1,880 Jeanie® ATMs in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee and West Virginia. The financial strength of Fifth Third’s affiliate banks continues to be recognized by rating agencies with deposit ratings of AA- and Aa1 from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. Additionally, Fifth Third Bancorp continues to maintain the highest short-term ratings available at A-1+ and Prime-1, and was recently recognized by Moody’s with one of the highest senior debt ratings for any U.S. bank holding company of Aa2. Fifth Third operates four main businesses: Retail, Commercial, Investment Advisors and Fifth Third Processing Solutions. Investor information and press releases can be viewed at [www.53.com][2]. The company’s common stock is traded through the Nasdaq National Market System under the symbol “FITB.”

[1]: http://www.cardinalcommerce.com
[2]: http://www.53.com


Account Acquisition Stats

A new study has found that the break-even point for credit card account acquisitions is the lowest among accounts produced through a direct portfolio purchase or agent bank relationships. However, compared to other methods of account acquisition, direct mail delivers accounts with the highest activity and renewal rates. The study by CA-based RK Hammer Investment Bankers shows the break-even point for accounts picked up through portfolio acquisition is about 11 months, as compared to accounts acquired through pre-approved with telemarketing, which took up to 40 months. The lowest activity rates and renewal rates occurred with Internet acquired credit card accounts.

Portfolio Acquisition NA NA 11 mos
Direct Mail 80%-90% 85%-90% 28 mos
Pre-Approved 70%-80% 80%-85% 24 mos
Telemarketing 60%-70% 65%-70% 36 mos
Pre.Appr+Tele 55%-60% 60%-65% 40 mos
Internet App 55%-60% 50%-60% 20 mos
Agent Bank 65%-75% 75%-85% 18 mos
AVERAGE 68% 82% 25 mos

Source: RK Hammer Investment Bankers