Stratcom Formed

De Novo Corporation, a consulting and communications holding company announced a joint venture with John A. Almash, formerly Senior Vice President of Global Planning and Information Services for MasterCard International. Most Recently, Mr. Almash was Executive Vice President of Decisions for Directions, Inc., a consumer research consultancy. Mr. Almash has joined the joint venture, Stratcom, LLC, as President. Stratcom is an information and competitive intelligence services company.

Mr. Almash also worked in senior positions at PepsiCo and General Foods. He is an experienced business strategist and researcher in financial services, packaged goods, retailing and telecommunications.

Stratcom provides services targeted to Fortune 1000 companies, which include database analytics, modeling, marketing consulting, planning, business and consumer intelligence. Stratcom is headquartered in Massapequa, New York with additional offices in Hockessin, Delaware and Toronto, Canada.

William F. Keenan, President of De Novo Corporation said, “John has an excellent track record helping organizations understand their customers and building corresponding bridges to influence profits. He is well respected and has many admirers amongst his peers and we look forward to working with him and the Stratcom team.”

Mr. Almash said, “I look forward to aggressively growing the business by helping clients gain insights into growing profits by converting information into actionable knowledge. We are invested heavily in technology infrastructure and will continue to recruit `best in class’ talent from a variety of industries.”

De Novo Corporation, based in Hockessin, Delaware, is a privately-held holding company. Wholly-owned subsidiaries include Creative Solutions International, a direct response-advertising agency; Convergence Group, an international management consultancy; and Owen/Holleway Group, a Canadian based general and on-line advertising agency.



PULSE EFT Association and Cincinnati-based Midwest Payment Systems Thursday announced the selection of MPS as the vendor to perform off-line debit services for PULSE.

“Based on demonstrably superior performance, product offering and overall economic value, MPS represents the preferred solution to meet our members’ needs,” said Stan Paur, PULSE president and CEO.

In 1996, PULSE introduced its offering of PULSE Debit Support Service (PULSE(R) DSS), a new PULSE branded debit card authorization and support service for its member institutions. This service provides members with a single source, turnkey solution for all their debit product needs. PULSE DSS provides a broad range of debit card authorization and support services for the MasterMoney(tm) and Visa Check Card(R) products.

It is anticipated that in addition to supporting the features, functionality and operational processes of the current Visa Check and MasterMoney off-line debit service offered by PULSE, MPS will provide enhanced product features, functions and service levels.

“This means added benefits to those members who currently participate in PULSE DSS,” Paur said. “There will be no material system changes for existing DSS customers and we expect that this new relationship will produce operational efficiencies and will result in a reduction in processing fees to our DSS clients,” he noted.

“As a major network in the South and Central regions of the United States, PULSE significantly strengthens our position as a major provider of electronic processing services in that area,” said Barry L. Boerstler, MPS executive vice president.

To facilitate the evaluation and selection of a vendor, PULSE distributed a detailed Request for Proposal (“RFP”) to potential vendors last year. PULSE was assisted in the RFP process, evaluation and vendor selection by Paragon Data Services, L.L.C., of Dearborn, Mich.

“The ultimate decision arrived at by the staff and a committee of PULSE’s directors was predicated on a variety of factors including service competency, program enhancement and cost,” Paur said. “For the past five months, we have explored options relative to the PULSE DSS vendor selection project and we are very pleased to be working with Midwest Payment Systems as our new service provider.

“The strategic relationship between PULSE and MPS will be enhanced because the companies share many of the same fundamental business objectives,” Paur said. “Both organizations are customer driven and strive to provide world class service to their customers at a low cost,” he said.

PULSE DSS currently is switching more than 2 million off-line debit transactions per month for 43 financial institutions with nearly 310,000 cardholders. The association anticipates that more than 20 million PULSE DSS transactions will be processed in 1999.

PULSE is a not-for-profit, shared electronic funds transfer network comprised of more than 2,000 member banks, credit unions and thrifts in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. The network features more than 43,000 ATMs and more than 186,000 PULSE PAY point-of-sale terminals.

MPS, a subsidiary of Fifth Third Bancorp, was ranked No. 1 EFT provider by Faulkner & Gray in 1998. MPS processes more than 2.9 billion ATM and POS transactions per year for more than 55,000 retail locations and financial institutions worldwide, including Federated Department Stores, The Kroger Co., Macy’s and CompUSA.

Fifth Third is a diversified financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati. The company, which is Y2K ready, has $31.6 billion in assets, operates 12 affiliated banks with 484 Banking Centers, including 106 Bank Mart(R) locations open seven days a week in select grocery stores and 1,188 Jeanie(R) ATMs in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida, Arizona and Michigan. Fifth Third’s financial strength is recognized by rating agencies with deposit ratings of AA- and Aa2 and deposit ratings of A1+ and P1 from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively.

Fifth Third operates four main businesses: Retail, Commercial, Investment Advisors and Midwest Payment Systems, the Bank’s data processing subsidiary.

The company’s common stock is traded in the over-the-counter market through the Nasdaq National Market System under the symbol “FITB”.

Investor information and press releases can be viewed at [][1]. Press releases are also available by fax at no charge by calling 800/758-5804, ext. 281775.



Liberty’s 3 Millionth Card

Liberty Card Services, already recognized as one of the credit union movement’s leading card providers, has sold its 3-millionth card. Only seven months ago, the company celebrated its 2-millionth card sold.

First Education Federal Credit Union, Cheyenne, Wyo., placed the milestone order for design and manufacturing of a new Visa(R) credit card. “We’d been talking about designing a new credit card for four years,” said Kathy Boheler, Vice President, First Education FCU. “Liberty Card Services made it happen. They did a terrific job recognizing our needs and goals and representing them in the design of our new card. Visa(R) even complimented us on the design. Now that’s a real testimony.”

The card depicts a sculpture located outside the Laramie County Public Library called “Story Books.”

“It was very important for us to make a connection with our members,” said Boheler. “We knew our education-based membership would appreciate the image of the ‘Story Books’ sculpture. It certainly represents the goal of our wonderful members: to educate the children of Laramie County.”

As part of a new partnership project with Liberty Direct Marketing, Liberty Card Services is also providing First Education FCU with a comprehensive point-of-sale marketing package called Direct Visual for Cards. This new product will help First Education FCU promote its new card through personalized posters, flyers, and teller mats. Direct Visual for Cards is now available to all Liberty credit union customers.

Since 1995, Liberty Card Services has provided a full range of award winning ATM, credit and debit card design, manufacturing and personalization services. “We’re delighted to create the opportunity in which the First Education member will see their reflection, their community, their credit union in their credit card,” said John Mattes, president of Liberty Card Services. “We are thrilled with the confidence placed in us by the hundreds of credit unions for whom we’ve provided manufacturing and personalizing services.”

Liberty Card Services is part of the growing Liberty family of credit union-focused companies. Recognized as the credit union movement’s leading provider of payment systems and marketing services, Liberty serves nearly 4,500 credit unions in all 50 states, Guam and Puerto Rico.

For more information, contact Rick Foy, Liberty public relations manager, at 800-607-2435, ext. 2436.


AmEx Online Bank

American Express launched a direct bank yesterday that offers high rates on deposits, low rate lines of credit, rebates on ATM surcharges, free unlimited electronic bill payment and an American Express ATM card. ‘Membership B@nking’ is being offered through AmEx’s Centurion Bank. The new direct bank offers an annual percentage yield on money market accounts at 5%, deposits in interest-bearing checking accounts earn a 2% yield, and one year CDs carry a 5.90% yield. Customers with interest-bearing checking accounts also receive automatic rebates for ATM surcharges imposed by other banks, up to four times per month, and up to $1.50 per transaction. ‘Membership B@nking’ is available to cardholders as well as to consumers who do not currently have a relationship with American Express. A minimum deposit of $100 is required to open an account and CDs require a minimum $2,500.


Providian’s Glitch

Despite being dogged by lawsuits during the second quarter Providian Financial reported Thursday second quarter net income of $126.5 million, an increase of 101% over the second quarter of 1998. However the company also took the opportunity yesterday to claim, in its 2Q/99 earnings report, that recent consumer lawsuits were primarily related to a “programming error” it recently identified. Providian says the “programming error”, which occurred over a period of months, resulted in the erroneous billing of late fees related to specific weekend days. The issuer says the problem is now fixed with steps in place to provide refunds to affected customers. The action produced a one-time charge of $20 million to cover the estimated cost. Meanwhile Providian reported average card loans of $14.0 billion compared to $12.6 billion for 1Q/99. Charge-offs dropped to 7.16% for 2Q/99 compared to 7.56% for 2Q/98. Delinquency (30+ days) also dropped from 4.90% last year to 4.70% this year. For other financial details on Providian’s second quarter visit CardData ([][1]).



Paymentech Expands PaymentNet

Paymentech’s commercial card unit introduced two major features to PaymentNet, its industry-leading Internet reporting system, at the National Business Travel Association convention this week. The company also announced the implementation of a MasterCard corporate travel and entertainment card program for Gap Inc..

Paymentech issues MasterCard and Visa commercial cards through its Salt Lake City-based First USA Financial Services unit. The PaymentNet enhancements, online expense reporting and electronic statement and payment, simplify travel and entertainment (T&E) reporting and payment for business cardholders using Paymentech’s commercial card products.

PaymentNet.ER (Expense Reporting), provides a simple, easy-to-use reporting module that allows cardholders to apply “trip based logic” and required IRS information to corporate card transactions while using PaymentNet’s core functionality to reconcile transactions. PaymentNet.ESP (Electronic Statement and Payment) allows corporate card users to receive, review and audit statements and make payments via the Internet. Employees securely view and pay corporate credit card bills, even when on the road.

“Proactive and knowledgeable client service magnifies the value of the Paymentech’s advanced technology,” said Calvin Chin, senior manager of expense and accounts payable at Gap Inc. “Service is integral to our business, and that naturally influenced our decision when looking at card programs. Successful companies require technology and ongoing support from their providers.”

PaymentNet Internet reporting tools provide secure access so companies and cardholders can manage commercial card activity data. With PaymentNet.ER, companies and cardholders who wrestle with different, inefficient processes for reconciling T&E and purchasing card transactions now have a solution for both. Whether documenting business meal attendees or allocating office supplies to multiple accounts, PaymentNet streamlines procedures and increases end-user satisfaction. PaymentNet.ER is designed for Paymentech customers with corporate card or combined corporate and purchasing card programs.

“For corporate and purchasing cards, PaymentNet.ER meets the company’s need for control and efficiency, and the employee’s desire for simplicity,” said James W. Baumgartner, president of Paymentech’s First USA Financial Services.

With PaymentNet.ESP, cardholders view their account(s) with protected access to current and past billing statements. They can sort items by date, amount, merchant, etc. With the click of a mouse, cardholders generate an “electronic check” via ESP. They then schedule an automatic payment to their Paymentech card account from a pre-established bank account(s).

“The employee saves time; the company saves money,” said Baumgartner. “The convenience factor encourages employees to pay promptly. They don’t worry with paper reports, mailed statements or handwritten checks. Companies can directly reimburse cardholders, based on approvals, through automated central pay.”

Paymentech also previewed future applications that will create the ability to download T&E notations from a hand-held personal digital assistant directly into PaymentNet’s database. “An executive could note ‘lunch with client, $50’ and then download from a PC into their PaymentNet expense report,” said Baumgartner. “Our goal is to create a start-to-finish virtual expense management process.”

With the PaymentNet cradle-to-grave product line, cardholders manage transactions (via a GUI interface for faster access) through the entire cycle to —

1. check and sort transactions, handle disputed charges, etc.

2. download transactions into the expense reporting system,

3. separate personal and business expenses and sort accordingly,

4. provide explanations for any out-of-policy expenses,

5. forward the expense report to their manager, and

6. use ESP to pay Paymentech, the commercial card provider.

Program administrators manage the life of a card online, from new card request through interim maintenance to final cancellation. Administrators can —

1. approve or decline an employee’s expense report online,

2. produce reports on spending patterns, etc.,

3. split charges between cost centers,

4. change cardholder profiles (address, credit lines, employee identification number, report hierarchy, etc.), and

5. adjust individual parameters for use (monthly credit limit, daily and monthly transaction levels and limits, merchant category blocking, etc.).

The latest version of PaymentNet is platform independent and requires minimal system integration. Users access the PaymentNet database via SSL compatible Internet browsers such as Explorer 4.x or Netscape 4.x.

Paymentech, Inc., founded in 1985, provides total electronic payment solutions for commercial card payment and information programs, and for merchant acquiring and third-party transaction processing. Paymentech is the nation’s third largest processor of bankcard transactions.



The concept of using handheld personal devices to pay each other with credit cards has taken a leap forward as Nokia decides to fund a startup. Palo Alto, CA-based Confinity, Inc. says its free ‘PayPal’ instant payment service will let users of small devices, such as the ‘Palm’ organizers, mobile phones and two-way pagers, pay each other with their credit cards. The new service is anticipated to be available in the fall. Telecommunications giant Nokia is the startup’s lead investor, contributing $3 million of Confinity’s $4.5 million first-round funding. Europe’s largest financial institution, Deutsche Bank, is also backing the startup. The product was officially launched yesterday as a representative of Nokia demonstrated the product by using his handheld organizer to send $3 million to Confinity’s CEO.


Discover Volume

Discover Financial Services said yesterday that its transaction volume of $16.3 billion, for the second fiscal quarter ending May 31, represented a 23% increase over the same period last year. Discover said the growth in volume was driven by its growing merchant acceptance. During the second quarter Discover signed more than 138,000 new merchant locations, the largest number of merchants signed in one quarter in its thirteen year history. Discover now is accepted at more than three million merchant and cash access locations. Discover launched an aggressive ad campaign this year aimed at merchants and communicating its position as the lowest cost credit card provider. Discover has also entered into major partnerships with United Airlines, Hyatt, Blockbuster and Alamo. The card issuer also introduced its ‘Platinum’ card this year featuring a double ‘CashBack Bonus’. On Aug. 1, Discover will launch its ‘Dine out with Discover Card’ program with more than 50,000 restaurants participating nationwide.


NP’s Interim CFO

National Processing Inc. announced that company controller and Senior Vice President David Fountain has been named interim chief financial officer of the company. Fountain will replace National Processing chief financial officer Jim Cate, who will leave the company, effective July 30, to pursue other interests.

Profile of National Processing Inc.

National Processing, Inc. (NYSE: NAP) is a leading provider of transaction processing services and customized processing solutions. Deploying technology and applications software, NPC provides products and value-added services for merchants, outsourcing of administrative and financial functions, and ticket processing and settlement for providers of travel-related services.


Sears 2Q/99

Second-quarter credit revenues for Sears Roebuck & Company declined 13% from a year ago, to $973.4 million, primarily due to lower late fee income and a reduction in the level of owned credit card receivables. The company said yesterday that credit quality has improved significantly and has more than offset any decline in credit revenues. Sears reported Thursday that its net earnings were driven by the performance of its credit business. At the end of the second quarter Sears held $26.2 billion in domestic card receivables compared to $27.2 billion for 2Q/98. Net U.S. charge-offs for 2Q/99 logged in at 7.11% compared to 7.37% last year. Delinquencies have declined to 7.29% for 2Q/99 from 8.07% for 1Q/99 and 9.28% for 4Q/98. For complete details on Sears’ 2Q/99 performance visit CardData ([][1]).



The King is Back

The Elvis Presley credit card has returned. Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. announced yesterday that it has signed an affinity card deal with MBNA America to issue the official ‘Elvis Presley’ credit card. The new cards feature two images of Elvis and will benefit the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation’s Presley Place, a transitional-housing project that will provide homeless families up to one year of rent-free housing, child day care, job training and counseling, and financial guidance. The Elvis Presley program is the newest affinity program in MBNA’s ‘Alliance Sector’, which has now established credit-card programs with 300 organizations and groups including the Frank Sinatra program. MBNA has nearly 4,000 affinity programs worldwide. According to CardTrak ([][1]), the ‘Elvis Presley MasterCard’ was formerly issued, since the late 1980’s, by Memphis-based Leader Federal Bank. Last year Bank of Scotland introduced an ‘Elvis MasterCard’ for British fans.



ECHO Gets U-Haul

Electronic Clearing House announced Wednesday that Phoenix-based U-Haul International has awarded to ECHO a bid for credit card processing service for its independent dealers who participate in the ‘Preferred Dealer Program’. ECHO developed and manufactured the software and hardware that provides inventory processing services for U-Haul dealers. ECHO also processes and supports the daily transaction activity for more than 11,000 dealers. ECHO will enhance the software in the system to include credit card processing for the dealers’ non-U-Haul activity. ECHO provides credit card processing, check guarantee, inventory tracking services and various Internet services to more than 19,000 retail merchants and U-Haul dealers across the nation.