Arthur Blank Gets Expansion Check

Boston Mayor Menino presented Arthur Blank & Co. with a check for $6 million Monday through a Boston Industry Development Finance Authority loan program to assist the company in their ongoing expansion of their production capacity. Since 1993, when the City began this loan program with Arthur Blank & Co., the company has increased its employment by 47 employees, an increase of more than 30%.

With retailers nationwide seeing the benefits of loyalty cards, frequent shopper programs, membership cards, phone cards, gift cards, and countless others, Arthur Blank & Co. has its hands full keeping up with demand. “Plastic cards used to be just for identification or imprinting,” says Stuart Blank, president and CEO of Arthur Blank and lifelong Boston area resident. “Today, they are marketing tools that can access information from buying habits to vital statistics and even emergency health records.”

Arthur Blank and Company has come a long way since its founding in 1934 on Causeway Street in Boston. “We were one of the first companies to print on plastic,” recalls Stuart. “You name it, if it’s on plastic we printed it pocket calendars, rulers, all sorts of things. But when loyalty, phone, and gift cards came out, things just went through the roof.” Today, working through their network of dealers, Arthur Blank & Co. provides cards for local companies such as Stop & Shop and Shaws for their checking and loyalty programs, membership cards for BJ’s Wholesale Club, identification cards for Harvard/Pilgrim Healthcare, and warranty cards for IBM/Lotus.

Recent upgrades to their manufacturing facilities in Boston, including the purchase of a state-of-the-art six color Komori press, its second Burkle laminator, and additional automated card punch machinery have helped Arthur Blank keep up with demand and cut delivery times to about two weeks.

In his remarks at the event, Stuart Blank said, “It would be gratifying for my father and uncles, who founded this company on Causeway Street in 1934, to be here today to share in this occasion – to say ‘thank you’ to all our employees, our customers and city officials who have contributed to our growth and success.”



Fair, Isaac and Company, Inc. announced Monday worldwide availability of Workbench, an integrated suite of software tools that packages Fair, Isaac’s expertise and innovation in predictive and decision analytics. This new offering allows clients to develop their own custom models and strategies. The first component to be released, Workbench Strategy Designer, enables in-house analysts to increase the effectiveness of their strategies and streamlines their current strategy development processes.

The Workbench suite will be rolled out in two phases. In Phase One, products are released in services mode. Phase Two delivers end-user products. The first component to be rolled out in Phase One is Strategy Designer, available in services mode through Fair, Isaac’s consulting service. In 2000, Fair, Isaac will introduce Phase Two, the product component of Strategy Designer. At that time, Strategy Designer will be sold for direct use by clients — without requiring support from consultants. As the suite matures, additional components will become available.

“For the first time, the power of Fair, Isaac’s domain expertise and ‘gold standard’ analytics is being put into the hands of our clients,” said Walter Nelson, vice president, Software Engineering and Product Management, Fair, Isaac. “Workbench combines Fair, Isaac’s experience and innovation to provide clients with the ability to create customer-focused solutions that best address real-life market needs.”

Strategy Designer is a revolutionary solution that provides clients with access to Fair, Isaac’s processes, tools and technology so they can rapidly develop strategies for targeting and acquisition, origination, and account management. This new tool seamlessly integrates human expertise with the use of data in strategy design and is a major technological leap forward. The product includes data-driven strategy design and decision tree creation that can build optimized challenger or test strategies based on analysis of historical data. The product also allows deeper insight into strategy performance through the use of multiple performance variables (e.g., risk, revenue, attrition) in the course of a strategy design. Workbench components will be integrated with Fair, Isaac decision engines such as StrategyWare(R) decision engine for account origination and TRIAD(TM) adaptive control system.

Added Nelson, “Because Workbench is component-based, it allows clients to integrate the best possible decision technology into their environment, according to their business requirements, the state of their systems, and their level of modeling expertise. With the integration of future components, clients can easily alternate between data exploration and discovery, basic and advanced model creation and evaluation, and data-driven strategy design.”

Fair, Isaac () helps businesses worldwide maximize the value of data to make more profitable decisions about their customers, operations and portfolios. Fair, Isaac delivers data management services, analytics, software, and consulting to the financial services, direct marketing, personal lines insurance, retail, and healthcare industries. For more information, call Fair, Isaac at 800-999-2955.


Set-Top Box

NY-based GEDI Systems Inc. announced this morning it will launch the ‘GEDI Interactive TV’, a set-top box that enables any standard television to perform simple PC functions, including browsing the Internet. ‘GEDI Interactive TV’ allows the user to answer the telephone, have a phone conversation through TV and receive and store up to 100 voice messages in its digital phone-answering device. The set-top box is also equipped with a CD player with CD-ROMs that store up to 15 retail catalogues each so the TV viewer can browse and window shop, — without going on line. When the user wants to perform such e-commerce activities as on-line banking, on-line trading or make a purchase, he or she plugs into a phone line for a moment, then points and clicks the appropriate commands. Since all incoming data is received through a TV signal, viewers can simultaneously display a favorite TV program, an updated investment portfolio and/or bank account and receive email and faxes, without going on line. The new device will ship in the fourth quarter.


Samuels Jewelers Sells Cards

Samuels Jewelers Inc. announced yesterday it has signed a letter of intent to sell its credit portfolio to a subsidiary of Alliance Data Systems, a leading provider of private label credit services.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The proposed sale, expected to close in late summer, constitutes the final piece of the restructuring Samuels began more than two years ago. The funds generated from the sale will be used to reduce debt. As a result of this transaction, Samuels will eliminate its current in-house credit department.

“In Alliance Data Systems, we gain a business partner with extensive retail experience that will assist us in effectively reaching our target customer, while allowing us to focus on our core business. Alliance Data Systems possesses significant portfolio management experience and state-of-the-art credit risk systems. These key competencies are especially important given our desire to enhance our credit portfolio performance as well as our ability to continually attract and retain loyal customers,” said Randy N. McCullough, Samuels’ president and chief executive officer.

“Today’s announcement allows us to continue our expansion and improves our ability to efficiently deliver the best value in the mall to our customers, capitalizing on the 100-year tradition of Samuels Jewelers,” continued McCullough.

“We are excited about this opportunity to apply our unique retail credit and marketing capabilities to support Samuels’ growth goals and assist them in developing lasting relationships with their customers,” said Ivan Szeftel, president, Retail Credit Services, Alliance Data Systems.

Samuels Jewelers Inc. sells fine jewelry and watches in 115 stores in 18 states under the trade names Samuels, Schubach, Mission, A. Hirsh & Son and Hatfield Jewelers.

Alliance Data Systems is one of the nation’s largest providers of private label credit, network, billing, customer care and database services, servicing nearly 57 million consumer accounts and processing more than one billion transactions annually. The Company currently employs more than 6,500 associates at 16 locations in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. For more information, visit Alliance Data Systems’ Web site at [][1].

Forward-looking statements in this press release and all other statements that are not historical fact are subject to risks and uncertainties, which may cause the company’s performance to vary. Specific risks include, but are not limited to, industry competition factors and other risks identified in the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.



GM Revs Up

The General Motors MasterCard has come out swinging with a new solicitation aimed directly at the ‘Discover’ card, the ‘First Card Mileage Plus VISA’ and the ‘Citibank Driver’s Edge MasterCard’. In a direct mail campaign unleashed this week GM has placed actual, full-color pictures of each card on the front of the envelope. According to CardWatch (CardWeb’s online marketing intelligence service), GM claims in its solicitation to have “scored the highest in three areas consumers value most: low introductory APR, no annual fee, and rich rewards.” The scoring was based on a comparison chart GM developed by gathering product information from various Web sites. GM/Household Bank is offering a fixed 3.9% APR through Dec. 31. The new solicitation also reflects Household’s revised credit card pricing: a go-to Prime +10.49% interest rate with an 18.74% minimum APR; a default or punitive interest rate of Prime +15.4% with a 23.9% minimum APR. Household has also beefed-up its cash advance fee to 3% with a $15 minimum, and boosted late fees and over-limit fees to $29 each. For more information visit CardWatch ([][1]), special access fees apply.

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Maestro Taiwan

MasterCard International announced Monday that Taiwan Cooperative Bank is joining the Maestro network, with inter-bank transactions to begin in July. Taiwan Cooperative Bank is the first public financial institution to become a part of the Maestro network. Taiwan Cooperative Bank depositors can now enjoy the convenience of charging and making payments with their ATM cards.

Since MasterCard International officially launched the Maestro online POS debit program last August in Taiwan, it has received an extremely positive response from both consumers and financial institutions, as evidenced by its exceptional growth rate. From the current 13 financial institutions issuing the Maestro card and 5,000 sales terminals throughout Taiwan, MasterCard International expects the number of issuing banks to significantly increase within the next few months. The total number of member Maestro merchant stores is expected to exceed 20,000 by the end of this year. More consumers will be able to enjoy Maestro’s convenient payment method.

Tina Chiang, General Manager of MasterCard Taiwan, said that MasterCard welcomes Taiwan Cooperative Bank to the Maestro network, which spans 28,000 ATMs and 252,000 point-of-sale terminals in Asia/Pacific. Bank of Taiwan, Land Bank of Taiwan, Central Trust of China, Chang Hwa Commercial Bank, First Commercial Bank and Taiwan Business Bank will soon be joining the Maestro network. MasterCard International expects total card issuance to surpass 6 million and the number of card issuing banks to exceed 40 institutions by year-end.

Taiwan Cooperative Bank has 145 branches islandwide, with 1.85 million ATM cardholders. Current cardholders can now exchange their ATM cards for new debit cards bearing the Maestro logo at no extra charge to them. Maestro debit cardholders can enjoy cash-free shopping, save themselves the inconvenience of withdrawing cash from ATMs, reconcile their bank accounts and purchase records — all while enjoying the discounts and benefits offered by Maestro merchant stores.

MasterCard International has the most comprehensive portfolio of payment brands in the world. With 23,000 member financial institutions, serving consumers in 220 countries and territories, MasterCard is the industry leader in quality and innovation. Nearly 700 million MasterCard, Maestro, Cirrus and Mondex” cards are in circulation today. With more than 16.2 million locations, no card is accepted in more places and by more merchants than the MasterCard Card. In 1998, gross dollar volume exceeded $650 billion. MasterCard can be reached through its World Wide Web site at .


New AmEx Deals

American Express confirmed Monday that is has signed an agreement with Millennium BIG Bank SA to issue American Express cards in Poland. The new Polish card will be denominated in Polish Zloty. Millennium BIG Bank currently has 57 branches and expects to open about 200 additional branches by 2002. Meanwhile Credit Saison has launched its second co-branded American Express card in Japan. The new ‘WOWOW Saison American Express Card’ is the result of a partnership between Credit Saison and Japan’s Satellite Broadcasting Services. Credit Saison also issues the ‘Yucho Saison American Express Card’, a co-branded card with the Japanese Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Credit Saison was the first Japanese credit card issuer to offer cards on four networks including VISA, MasterCard, JCB and American Express. The firm has about 11.4 million cards-in-force in Japan.


The New Triad

Fair, Isaac released a new version of its ‘Triad 6.0’ adaptive control system yesterday, which offers enhanced user control, multiple billing options, “no-wait” behavior scoring, and can be installed in half the time of earlier versions. The new ‘TRIAD 6.0’ features a flexible, comprehensive interface that provides complete user control of strategy design, resulting in faster rollout of new, more competitive strategies, multiple billing capabilities that allow a user to run up to four different types of portfolios on the same installation, and availability on multiple platforms, including ‘HP-UX’. Fair, Isaac says ‘TRIAD’ has helped nearly 200 credit grantors worldwide reduce delinquency by as much as 25%, increase revenues by as much as 30%, and boost interest income by as much as 15%.


Diners Club Circus

Feld Entertainment, producers of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, signed Diners Club yesterday to become the first national sponsor of Feld’s new ‘Barnum’s Kaleidoscape’. The entirely new live entertainment experience features an intimate one-ring performances. Under terms of the agreement Diners Club will be the exclusive charge card for Barnum’s Kaleidoscape for the next two years. Diners Club will also be offering its cardholders special benefits, including early purchase and VIP seating opportunities.


Debt Loads

The July issue of Consumer Reports magazine is enlightening consumers of the total costs of revolving a $19 pizza to a ‘VISA’ card. The latest issue, released yesterday, focuses on managing debt. CU says Americans now carry debt loads equivalent to 99% of their annual disposable income, a proportion that’s nearly doubled over the past 40 years. CU says college-age kids are particularly susceptible to today’s importuning lenders and predicts about 100,000 people, under 25, will file for bankruptcy this year alone. The article entitled: “The New Rules of Borrowing,” also lays out seven strategies to help people of all ages and backgrounds borrow prudently, use credit wisely and pare down existing debt. The article also includes a table that guides would-be borrowers to the right type of loan for their needs. Consumer Reports has a loyal readership of more than five million consumers.


Euro Takes Off

VISA International reported Monday that Euro payments on ‘VISA’ cards are doubling every month. Since the currency was introduced Jan. 1, VISA has processed more than one million transactions totaling 30 million Euro or about $31 million in U.S. dollars. VISA says this represents 1.35% of its total European traffic. VISA also points out that U.S. cardholders traveling in Europe accounted for nearly 2.0% of the total Euro transactions. VISA found that 13% of Euro/VISA transactions occurred among Internet, mail and phone order transactions. In Europe, cardholders in Spain, Holland and Belgium have been the most active with Euro transactions.


Edify Award

Edify Corporation, a leading global provider of Internet and voice e-Commerce portal solutions, announced Monday that Frost & Sullivan, an international marketing consulting company, has honored Edify with its prestigious “Market Engineering Product Line Strategy Award.” Based on in-depth interviews and analyses of companies in the electronic funds transfer industry, Frost & Sullivan singled out Edify for making a positive contribution by being the first to offer financial institutions with a Consumer Banking Suite supporting bill presentment and bill payment capabilities.

“Such innovation and foresight continues to elevate Edify to the leadership position in the Internet banking space,” said Norvin Leong, an industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan. The company’s consumer-oriented Electronic Banking System covers an array of online banking features and capabilities. This depth in feature set distinguishes Edify from the rest of the field in terms of a product line strategy.”

Edify’s Electronic Banking System (EBS) is a comprehensive direct banking solution that provides financial institutions the means to deploy personalized, content-rich electronic banking services via multiple channels including the Internet, telephone and personal financial management software. EBS Release 3 Consumer Banking Suite consists of the Electronic Banking System platform and 17 standard and optional modules — the two newest of which are Electronic CheckBook and Electronic Bill Payment and Presentment (EBPP) designed for consumer direct banking services. The EBS Release 3 modules were created as an integrated electronic delivery system that provides sophisticated billing and payment management services that work in conjunction with leading third-party consolidators including CheckFree. EBPP brings repeat traffic to the financial institution’s portal site allowing them to proactively offer content and services tailored to the customer’s needs.

“Edify’s consumer banking customers continue to demand aggressive and thorough bill presentment and payment solutions,” said Jeffrey M. Crowe, president and CEO of Edify Corporation. “The Frost & Sullivan award strongly confirms our leadership position. We will continue to innovate and offer groundbreaking products to further raise the bar and shape the direction of the online financial industry.”

In just two months since its introduction in April 1999, the Consumer Banking Suite has been licensed by over 115 financial institutions. These Edify customers range from the top 100 U.S. banks including Chase Manhattan, First Merchants and Mercantile Bank to a number of regional credit unions such as Boeing Credit Union, American Electronics Association Credit Union and Rockwell Credit Union. Edify’s Consumer Banking Suite is also used by international banks in countries such as Australia (ANZ Bank, Bendigo Bank, Macquarie Bank, BankWest), New Zealand (Countrywide) and Italy (Banca di Roma, Cassa di Risparmio Perugia) as well as Internet-only banks like NetB@ank and CompuBank.

Market Engineering Awards are based on Frost & Sullivan’s research and consulting work in the U.S. Electronic Funds Transfer Software industry in 1998. Winners are selected from an in-depth analysis of the market competitors and interviews with those companies that make up the industry. The Frost & Sullivan research management team has reviewed these awards and the criteria used to select the winners to ensure that the competition and award system are as fair as possible given the subjective nature of market analysis and competitive assessment.

About Frost & Sullivan

Frost & Sullivan is an international marketing consulting and company that monitors the information technology industry for market trends, market measurements and strategies. This ongoing research is utilized to update a series of online research publications such as Banking, Financial and Retail Custom Subscription () and to support industry participants with customized consulting needs. Additional information about Frost & Sullivan can be obtained at .

About Edify

Edify Corporation is a global leader providing Internet and voice e-Commerce portal solutions to intelligently manage customer relationships. The company’s software offers organizations the means to automate, integrate, and personalize interactions with customers through multiple channels, yielding stronger, more profitable relationships. The company’s software has been licensed to more than 1,250 organizations worldwide. Edify software is distributed directly and through leading solutions providers, application partners and distributors around the globe. With more than 470 employees, Edify Corporation is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif. with international headquarters in London, England. On May 17, 1999, Edify Corporation announced that it has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Security First Technologies of Atlanta, Georgia (Nasdaq: SONE). Additional information about Edify may be obtained by calling 408-982-2000 (USA) or +44-181-263-2710 (Europe, Middle East, Africa) or via the World Wide Web at .

Forward Looking Statements

The matters set forth in this press release, such as statements relating to EBS and the Consumer and Business Banking Suites and other products and services are forward looking and are subject to a number of risk and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. Although on-line banking has been available in various forms for many years, there can be no assurance that consumers will accept on-line banking over the Internet or the company’s products, including EBS, in sufficient numbers to make on-line banking or the company’s products successful. In addition, given the uncertainties of software development, there can be no assurance that the company’s products will be implemented in the anticipated time frames or with the anticipated features, functionality or benefits. Further information on the important factors that could affect the results or outcomes discussed in the forward-looking statements is included in Edify’s Annual Report on the Form 10-K and its other reports filed from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.