Keenan to go Public

Stuart Crutchfield, formerly First Vice President of Corporate and Strategic Planning at MBNA America, has been tapped as Chief Financial Officer for the De Novo Corporation. As De Novo’s new CFO, Crutchfield joins other senior executive members at De Novo Corporation’s Headquarters in Delaware, the company’s base of operations for the IPO launch. His experience with public companies and his familiarity with the financial community are expected to enhance De Novo’s growth strategy. De Novo Corporation anticipates an IPO launch in early 2002.

Stuart Crutchfield brings with him 14 years of working experience with large organizations, such as MBNA America, Providian Financial and NatWest Bank. During his tenure at MBNA America, he was a member of a task force responsible for budget management & analysis and bank-wide productivity & efficiency analysis. Prior to this position, Crutchfield was the Finance Director for MBNA’s mortgage business in charge of planning, reporting, pricing, profitability analysis and mergers & acquisitions.

“De Novo Corporation is fortunate to have access to the skills and experience that Stuart Crutchfield brings,” said William Keenan, President of De Novo Corporation. “His financial leadership, within several best-in-class public companies, will enhance De Novo Corporation’s executive team and our growth strategies for an IPO.”

Stuart Crutchfield received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Studies at New Hampshire College. In addition, he obtained his Master of Science in Financial Economics at Colorado State University and went on to earn his post-MBA degree in International Management at Thunderbird: American Graduate School of International Management.

About De Novo Corporation:

De Novo Corporation is an Online and Offline marketing communications holding company, consists of Creative Solutions International, an integrated direct response advertising agency; Convergence Group, an international management consultancy; Owen/Holloway Group, a brand development and corporation communications advertising agency; and Stratcom, a business and consumer intelligence company.

De Novo Corporation offers a broad range of integrated marketing communications services to Fortune 1000 companies throughout the world. It currently has offices in New York, Arizona, Georgia, Delaware and in Canada. Currently a private company, De Novo Corporation is intending to conduct an initial public offering in early 2002.

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No Credit Deterioration

Despite higher credit card interest rates and concerns that the most leveraged consumers will become overburdened, there are no signs of any credit deterioration. The Fitch IBCA index of credit card-backed securities, for the Jan. collection period, shows consumers still repaying their credit card balances at or near record rates and card portfolios generating historically healthy levels of excess spread. Moreover, serious delinquencies are contracting further from their recent highs and personal bankruptcy filings are undercutting even the most aggressive predictions for the year. The latter pair of trends bode well for future chargeoffs, which fell slightly in the most recent period and should decline in the coming months. Fitch IBCA’s delinquency index, which measures outstanding balances greater than 60 days past due, registered its second consecutive decline, trimming 11 bps from the previous month to settle at 3.06%. The consecutive declines have all but erased the prior five-month run-up during which the index rose more than 10.5%. While the month-to-month decline was driven by fewer than 25% of master trusts tracked, the index remains well below its Feb. 1999 mark of 3.28%. Fitch IBCA’s chargeoff index declined eight basis points for the month to 5.45% while extending its string of year-over-year improvements to 19-consecutive months. The slight monthly improvement was influenced by the dearth of fourth-quarter personal bankruptcy filings helping to offset prior increases in late-stage delinquencies.

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ACE Signs ONG

ACE Cash Express, Inc. signed a multi-year agreement with Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG). ONG customers who make service payments at ACE retail stores will have their accounts posted the same day utilizing ACE’s proprietary point-of- sale network.

“This agreement provides our customers with an additional convenient payment option at any of the 23 locations in the Ace network of stores across our state,” said Roy Clymer, ONG Vice President of Customer Service. “This gives our customers more choice in where and how their gas bill payments are made.”

“Building a relationship with a major utility like ONG is very exciting because everybody wins,” said Jay B. Shipowitz, President of ACE. “Customers now have a convenient place to make their monthly payment, ONG will get the information the same day for fast account posting and ACE has added another service for our customers.”

ACE Cash Express, Inc. is headquartered in Irving, Texas and traded on The Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol AACE. It is the largest owner, operator and franchiser of check-cashing stores in the United States. Founded in 1968, the company has a total network of more than 1000 stores, including over 854 Company-owned stores and 146 franchised stores in 30 states and Washington, D.C. ACE offers a broad range of financial services, which include check cashing, MoneyGram wire transfers, money orders, small consumer loans, bill payment services and telecommunication services, including prepaid long distance and local phone service. The ACE web site is found at [http://www.acecashexpress.com][1].

Oklahoma Natural Gas, a division of ONEOK, Inc. (NYSE: OKE), is the largest natural gas utility in Oklahoma, providing service to more than 750,000 customers. More information about the company is available on the ONG web site at [http://www.ong.com/>http://www.ong.com][2].

[1]: http://www.acecashexpress.com/
[2]: http://www.ong.com/

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G2 CPE

NBS Technologies released its ‘Generation 2’ smart card ‘Card Personalization Element’ for the NBS ‘Horizon’ in-line card personalization system. The new ‘G2 CPE’ enables the Horizon to maintain its production speed of over 1000 cards per hour. NBS has already tested the ‘G2’ technology at beta sites across Europe during 1999 and selected customers have been running live for several months. The latest GSM smart cards, including new larger capacity 16 Kbytes chips and applications, and other types of smart card are being personalized at rates that exceed 1000 cards per hour.

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Tradesafe Payments

Another Internet payment system surfaced yesterday offering P2P, C2C and B2B transactions. RI-based Tradesafe.com launched ‘Tradesafe.com Payments’ and announced a joint venture with Fleet Bank. According to the terms agreement, Fleet will provide Tradesafe.com with credit card processing services, and a gateway for ACH payments. In return, Tradesafe.com will provide new technology that enables online sellers to collect payments quickly in consumer-to-consumer and business-to-business transactions. Because Fleet is able to process online credit card transactions immediately through the bank’s own merchant services group, sellers at Internet auctions and other e-commerce sites can do business without the delays and financial constraints involved with merchant or escrow accounts. For purchases under $1,200, the buyer provides Tradesafe.com with a credit card as payment for the product. Tradesafe.com immediately deposits the money into the seller’s bank account. The buyer and seller then complete the delivery of goods. For transactions of $1,200 or more, Tradesafe.com confirms buyers’ receipt and satisfaction of the product before releasing funds to the seller.

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CoolSavings

First Data Corp. announced Monday it has both invested in and entered into a strategic marketing agreement with CoolSavings. As part of the agreement, First Data will leverage its technology platforms to provide electronic processing and fulfillment for the various savings incentives CoolSavings delivers to its more than six million registered members. CoolSavings provides targeted online coupons, rebates, free samples and other savings opportunities to its registered membership base via its Web site. Through First Data, the CoolSavings model will be enhanced to allow redemption at participating Internet and brick and mortar merchants to be completely online, automatic and paperless. First Data’s patent-pending technology will enable CoolSavings’ members to experience savings that are fulfilled electronically, appearing directly on their credit card statements. First Data will be the exclusive provider of these services to CoolSavings for VISA and MasterCard transactions.

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MBNA & JP Morgan

MBNA America Bank announced Monday an agreement with J.P. Morgan to provide credit card services to the firm’s private banking clients, including clients of its new Morgan OnLine service also introduced Monday.

MBNA will offer a J.P. Morgan credit card to Morgan’s private banking clients. The announcement coincides with the launch of Morgan OnLine, the Wall Street firm’s new integrated wealth advisory service available via the Internet to Morgan’s clients.

“J.P. Morgan’s selection of MBNA as the credit card of choice for its wealth management clients underscores our commitment to providing superior services to premier Customers,” said John Cochran, chief marketing officer of MBNA. “For more than a century, J.P. Morgan has provided the highest quality advice and client service, and MBNA will maintain those high standards through its credit card offerings.”

“As J.P. Morgan expands its’ private client business to serve the growing number of millionaire investors with integrated wealth management solutions, a high caliber credit card is a service we know our clients will appreciate,” said Albert Bashawaty, managing director of JPMorgan Advisors, Inc. “We are pleased that MBNA will provide this added feature to our high net worth clients.”

MBNA Corporation (NYSE: KRB), a bank holding company and parent of MBNA America Bank, N.A., a national bank, has $72.3 billion in managed loans. MBNA, the largest independent credit card lender in the world, also provides retail deposit, consumer loan, and insurance products.

J.P. Morgan is a global financial firm that has built an international reputation for excellence in serving the needs of corporations, governments, institutions, and individuals. J.P. Morgan manages $350 billion in assets for defined benefit and defined contribution plans, proprietary mutual funds, third-party mutual funds, and high-net-worth individuals. The firm has U.S. private banking offices in New York, Philadelphia, Palm Beach, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Wilmington, DE, and will be expanding into 10 cities in 2000.

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SafeDebit on STAR

Star Systems, Inc. announced Monday that it will join NYCE Corporation in offering SafeDebit to 3,400 STAR member financial institutions, representing 80 million ATM/debit cardholders. SafeDebit, an innovative payment solution, will allow consumers to use their ATM/debit card to make secure, real-time Internet purchases.

“Consumers have come to depend on their ATM/debit cards for secure, convenient payments at the point of sale,” said STAR(sm) President and CEO Ronald V. Congemi. “Before SafeDebit, consumers could not make real-time, secure purchases on the Internet with their ATM/debit card. SafeDebit will change that, extending those benefits to Internet transactions and expanding consumer and merchant choices in an important way.”

Scheduled to launch in the second quarter of 2000, SafeDebit builds on the infrastructure and experience of the regional ATM networks, including NYCE and STAR, expanding the options for cardholders while preserving customer trust.

“We are thrilled to have STAR join us on this important initiative, offering SafeDebit to its member institutions,” said Dennis Lynch, President of NYCE Corporation. “Like NYCE, STAR has a history of innovation … by making SafeDebit available to its member institutions and merchant processors, STAR will broaden and enhance the e-commerce options for millions of cardholders.”

SafeDebit is modeled on the existing ATM/debit card design. Participating financial institutions will issue their customers a SafeDebit CD-ROM “card” in the shape of an ATM/debit card, as well as a personal identification number (PIN). When making an Internet purchase, SafeDebit cardholders will select the SafeDebit symbol as the payment option, insert the SafeDebit “card” into the CD-ROM drive on their PC and enter an e-PIN for authorization. As with ATM/debit cards, the SafeDebit transaction will be routed through the designated online EFT network, including NYCE and STAR. This two-step process, entry of a card and PIN, which is unique to the Internet but familiar to debit card users, provides consumers with a level of security currently unavailable for Internet purchases.

“Consumers, Internet merchants, and financial institutions will all benefit with SafeDebit,” said Congemi. “Secure, real-time Internet transactions will not only expand payment options. SafeDebit also is designed to reduce fraud and enhance consumer trust when making purchases online.”

The SafeDebit service being offered is in addition to other secure, real-time Internet purchasing initiatives, including digital signatures, currently under pilot through STAR. The STAR Network processes more than 2 billion transactions a year, via nearly 520,000 participating ATMs and merchant locations such as grocery stores, gas stations and discount stores. The largest such network in the U.S., STAR is headquartered in Maitland, FL, with offices also in San Diego, CA; Columbia, SC; Reston, VA; and St. Louis, MO.

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VISA Volume Up 18%

VISA U.S.A. reported this morning it processed $721.1 billion in consumer and business purchases during 1999. This compares to $611.0 billion for 1998. Growth in 1999 dollar volume was driven by the ‘VISA Check’ card, which makes up more than 25% of VISA’s today dollar volume. Dollar volume on the ‘VISA Check’ card reached $183.8 billion in 1999, up 36% from 1998. There are now more than 84.5 million ‘VISA Check’ check cards in the U.S. Non-traditional acceptance categories also drove VISA’s growth. VISA volume at movie theaters, for instance, jumped 107% in 1999, as moviegoers spent $195 million with their VISA cards. At fast-food restaurants, where VISA volume rose 66% last year, some $616 million was transacted on VISA cards. Among recurring utility payments via VISA cards, card use for cable TV bills hit $1 billion last year. VISA’s suite of commercial card products also represented a major product growth category for 1999. Volume on bank-issued VISA commercial cards reached $45 billion in 1999, up 42% from 1998. There are now over 9.2 million VISA commercial cards in circulation, up 23% from year-end 1998.

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OPC Signs Spokane

Official Payments Corporation announced Friday a new business award with Spokane, County WA.

Under the contract, Official Payments Corp. will provide Spokane County a service by which taxpayers can pay their Real Estate Taxes, Property Taxes and Improvement District Assessments by credit card, over the Internet and telephone. Real Estate and Property Taxes are due in Spokane County on April 30 and October 31. Taxpayers will be able to make their payments by credit card by calling 1-888-2-PAY-TAXSM or over the Internet at [www.officialpayments.com][1]. Spokane County collects $300 million annually in Real Estate and Property Taxes; the average bill is $1,600.

“Offering our citizens the option to pay their taxes by credit card is part of our ongoing program of innovation and enhanced services,” said Linda Wolverton, Spokane County Treasurer. “In our due diligence in investigating this type of payment option, we found Official Payments’ services to be reliable, safe and secure,” Ms. Wolverton added.

Official Payments Corp. processes credit card payments for over 450 counties and municipalities and operates in 34 states. The company has contracts with seven state governments and the Internal Revenue Service to collect income tax by credit card, over the Internet and telephone.

Official Payments Corp. charges taxpayers a convenience fee for processing these credit card transactions. The fee schedule can be found on the Internet at [www.officialpayments.com][2]. For example, a taxpayer who owed Spokane County $1600 and charged their taxes would find a total of $1,649 on their credit card statement: $1600 for the tax bill and $49.00 for the convenience fee. American Express, Discover Card, MasterCard and Visa are the credit cards accepted by the program. Taxpayers using credit cards with bonus rewards programs can, depending on their card’s program, earn rewards, points, and cash-back or airline frequent flyer miles for paying their taxes.

About Official Payments Corp.

Official Payments Corporation (formerly U.S. Audiotex Corporation) is a leading provider of electronic payment options to government entities. The company enables consumers to pay government fees and taxes via telephone or the Internet, using their credit cards. The company has partnered with the Internal Revenue Service, several state governments, including California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oklahoma, and 450+ municipal and county entities in 34 states, in which it collects income taxes, property taxes, real estate taxes, parking fines and other government fees by credit card over the telephone and the Internet. The company is publicly traded on Nasdaq under the symbol OPAY. Official Payments Corp. is committed to making payments to the government go fast, smart and safe.

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

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PCCharge Alliance

ShopNow.com Inc. unveiled, last week, new versions of its ‘PCCharge’ products including ‘PCCharge Express’, ‘PCCharge Pro’ and ‘PCCharge DevKit’. The products, collectively called the PCCharge Alliance, are software programs designed to enable electronic transaction payments. The upgraded ‘PCCharge’ products include additional anti-fraud features that cater to both card-not-present and card-present circumstances. Features include ‘CVV2’, a verification feature currently certified with six processors; Magnetic Strip Verification; definable user level security; and adoption of a convention (in compliance with a new California law) mandating secure receipts that truncate the credit card number and omit the expiration date. The products are also bolstered with two legacy anti-fraud features: Address Verification Services and data file encryption. ShopNow’s transaction processing division has over 16,500 customers.

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