MasterCard’s Consumer Confidence Index

Consumer confidence around the region recovered dramatically in the second half of 1998, according to MasterCard International. The twice-yearly MasterIndex survey measures consumer confidence in thirteen countries and territories in Asia Pacific. From record lows in the June 1998 survey, the latest set of results show that, with the exception of India, consumer confidence in each of the twelve other markets surveyed is up.

In Malaysia there has been a dramatic shift, with the MasterIndex up from its all-time low of 23.8 in June 1998, to 67.6 in the December 1998 survey (the MasterIndex score ranges from 0 most pessimistic, to 100 most optimistic, with 50 denoting a situation of neutrality). In Korea, the MasterIndex is up from a low of 14.1 in June 1998 to 44.3 in December.

Even India, the only market surveyed not to report a positive shift, moved just three Index points lower from a MasterIndex of 51.7 to 49.3 – maintaining a neutral score.

According to Jonathon Gould, Senior Vice President, Marketing, MasterCard Asia Pacific, “These are the most significant results, indicating a positive outlook, since we began the survey in 1993. There is a clear regional trend. While there is still caution among most consumers around the region (only three markets – China, Malaysia and the Philippines – returned optimistic Index scores) and we’re not back to the levels of confidence seen around the region pre-June 1997, this survey is a clear indication that consumer confidence is returning.”

Country Findings

– Australia’s consumer confidence rose from a record low of 29.3 in June 1998 to 47.1 in December 1998. While still short of its record high MasterIndex of 81.7 in 1994, it is almost back to its pre-Asian economic crisis level of 52.6. Scores on all five economic variables surveyed were up and there is a positive outlook on two key factors in the MasterIndex survey: regular income (66.6) and confidence in the stability of the stock market (48.9).

– China’s MasterIndex of 54.7 up from 52.1 in June 1998, is the average of the scores in three separate surveys in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Beijing’s MasterIndex has improved significantly (from 46.5 to 57.2). Shanghai’s has contracted slightly (61.4 to 56.2), while Guangzhou’s remains practically unchanged (47.7 to 46.6). A more optimistic view on the future of the economy (55.2 to 57.1), regular income (57.1 to 62.3) and quality of life (56.4 to 68.7) were key contributors to the improved MasterIndex.

– Consumer confidence edged up slightly in Hong Kong (13.1 to 14.4). Just before the crisis began, the MasterIndex read 60.5. Six months after the crisis it fell to 23.3 before hitting its low of 13.1 in June 1998. Employment (6.8 to 9.6), economy (9.5 to 15.2), stock market (21.7 to 22.7) and quality of life (6.3 to 8.3) all saw marginal improvements in the MasterIndex score. The one area that saw a decline was concern about regular income which fell from 21.1 to 16.3.

– Although India was the only market to record a decline in consumer confidence, it was only slight, from 51.7 to 49.3. The score was still the fourth highest MasterIndex in the region, indicating consumers believe the status quo will be maintained. A less optimistic outlook on future employment prospects (35.6 to 29.7), regular income (86.8 to 73.6) and quality of life (58.8 to 49.2) contributed to the lower MasterIndex score.

– An improved outlook on all five economic factors saw the Indonesian MasterIndex climb from an all time low of 15.3 in June 1998 to 30.6 in the latest survey. However, it is still some way from its record highs of 95.9 and 93.7 in the two surveys prior to the Asian economic crisis. Regular income (20.4 to 54.9), stock market (13.7 to 34.4) and economy (10.4 to 17.9) saw the greatest shifts in Indonesian consumer confidence.

– While Japan remains the country with the lowest MasterIndex score in the region, it did show an improvement. Its MasterIndex of 10 is its highest since the start of the Asian economic crisis, when it dropped to 5 in December 1997, and to a low of 1 in June 1998. Improved confidence in the stock market (2.6 to 13.9) and quality of life (0 to 24.4) helped push the MasterIndex score up. It also has to be remembered that Japan has traditionally scored lowly in the MasterIndex with an all time high of only 42.6 recorded in December 1996.

– The Korean MasterIndex is second only to Malaysia in terms of improvement. It is the country’s most dramatic MasterIndex positive shift since the survey began, up from 14.1 in June 1998 to 44.3 in December. There were improvements across all five economic variables, most notably in confidence in the stock market (37.3 to 68.3), economy (14.8 to 55.0) and employment (6.7 to 37.2).

– Malaysia recorded the highest MasterIndex in the region, leaping from an all-time low of 23.8 in June 1998 to the optimistic 67.6 in December 1998. While still not at its pre-economic crisis highs when it was regularly recording MasterIndex scores in the 90s, there has been a dramatic improvement in consumer confidence since the last survey. The MasterIndex for all five economic variables was up, with stock market (23.3 to 75.3), economy (30.6 to 78.7) and employment (19.5 to 66) all showing notable shifts.

– New Zealand’s MasterIndex of 45.3 is almost back to its pre-Asian economic crisis level of 46.5, although still some way short of its all time MasterIndex high of 75.4 in December 1995. The latest turnaround in consumer confidence can be attributed to improvements in confidence in future employment prospects (9.4 to 25.8), the stock market (25.6 to 58.5) and the economy (16.0 to 37.6).

– Consumer confidence in the Philippines remained fairly optimistic and continued to be among the highest in the region. The current MasterIndex of 55.7 showed a significant recovery not just from Quarter 2 1998, but from Quarter 4 1997 as well. Filipino consumers are highly optimistic about regular income (87.9). A clear signal that the Filipinos’ believe they have weathered the worst of the regional crisis: There was a significant increase of the MasterIndex scores across all economic variables from last December, except for quality of life (46.5 compared to 48).

– Consumer confidence in Singapore, at 34.6, increased but still remains low. The downward trend which began in Quarter 4 1996 has been reversed for the first time in more than two years. Except for regular income (19.3 vs 30.3), all economic variables registered an increase, notably stock market (48.2 vs 25.9) and economy (40.9 vs 25.4).

– In Taiwan, consumer confidence on most economic factors showed a drastic improvement – all factors showed an increase, with the MasterIndex score leaping from December 1998’s 35 to the current 46.2. The Taiwanese remain most optimistic about regular income (62.2) and quality of life (60). However, employment issues (25) and the economy (34.8) continue to concern most Taiwanese consumers.

– Overall consumer confidence and sentiments on all five economic factors have doubled or even tripled in Thailand. Although the current MasterIndex of 38.5 still indicates apprehension among Thai consumers, the current reading is more optimistic than the previous three MasterIndex readings. In fact the current MasterIndex is even higher than the pre-Asian crisis MasterIndex of 25.3 (Quarter 2 1997). The Thais showed more optimism particularly in the stock market (50 vs 15.7), economy (45.9 vs 18.2) and regular income (40.9 vs 27.2).

Gould summarized, “Last year, we indicated that there would be a turn-around in consumer confidence in most Asian markets by the end of 1998, and we are pleased that our forecast proved to be accurate. While Asian consumers still have valid concerns about the future, the latest MasterIndex shows that most Asians have already begun to believe there may yet be a light at the end of the tunnel.”

MasterCard International

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. More than 600 million MasterCard(R), Maestro(R), Cirrus(R), and Mondex(TM) cards are accepted at more than 15 million locations worldwide. In 1997, gross dollar volume exceeded US$600 billion. MasterCard can be reached through its World Wide Web site at .

Details

NetPrecision Signs More

Bankers Bank of the West is adding secure, affordable, fully functional Web sites to the array of products and services it provides to independent banks in six western states.

The deal was announced by Roger Reiling, president of Bankers Bank of the West, and Steve Simpson, senior vice president of The Independent BankersBanks (TIB), which developed and manages the Internet banking program.

The bankers’ bank program enables independent banks to launch Internet home banking services that help them compete with Web sites offered by the nation’s largest banks. TIB program member Amarillo National Bank’s Web site was named “Best Internet Banking Web Site” by Retail Delivery News, a prestigious banking industry newsletter.

The program provides turnkey Web site design, production, implementation, project management, training, and a comprehensive consumer marketing program.

The bankers’ bank Internet banking Web sites run on First Data Direct Banking’s NetPrecision Home Banking platform. NetPrecision was the first provider of Internet banking services to receive independent certification of its security procedures from the International Computer Security Association (ICSA).

“We’re pleased to be able to provide state-of-the-art Internet banking services that will help community banks compete on an equal footing with their largest rivals,” said Bankers’ Bank of the West President and Chief Executive Officer Reiling.

Bankers’ Bank of the West provides a variety of cash management, lending and electronic banking services to 356 banks in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah and Nebraska.

“We welcome Bankers’ Bank of the West as a valuable addition to our already successful team of bankers’ banks making our affordable, turnkey Internet banking program available to the nation’s independent banks,” said Simpson. “Programs like this truly fulfill the mission statement of a bankers’ bank by helping to make the nation’s financial institutions more competitive.”

“The Internet is the most dynamic new distribution channel to come along in years, and we’re pleased that our network of bankers’ banks is continuing to grow,” said Randy Kahn, president of First Data Direct Banking. “TIB’s successful program is a major contributor to the rapid growth of our customer base.”

About the Independent BankersBank

A consistent leader in the correspondent banking industry, TIB is the nation’s leading bankers’ bank, providing correspondent products and services to more than 670 financial institutions. Innovation has been one of TIB’s hallmarks, including its early recognition and adoption of the technological advances and reliable security of the NetPrecision Internet banking product.

TIB has invited all bankers’ banks to join in offering this service. It is anticipated that another three to five bankers’ banks will join the program soon.

About First Data Direct Banking

First Data Direct Banking builds and hosts customized Internet financial service solutions for financial institutions of all sizes.

Using the NetSpeed(SM) process, financial institutions can have fully functional, branded Web sites up and running in just 30 business days with the NetPrecision system.

Los Angeles-based First Data Direct Banking ties leading-edge online financial services partnerships and template, custom-built or existing Web sites into transaction processing provided by electronic payments processing leader First Data Corp. Direct Banking can be found on the World Wide Web at [www.netprecision.com][1].

Atlanta-based First Data Corp. (NYSE:FDC) is a global leader in payment systems, electronic commerce and information management products and services. First Data and its principal operating units process the information that allows millions of consumers to pay for goods and services by credit, debit or smart cards at the point of sale or over the Internet; by check or wire money. For further information about First Data, visit the company on the Internet at [www.firstdatacorp.com][2].

[1]: http://www.netprecision.com
[2]: http://www.firstdatacorp.com

Details

Net.B@ank 4Q/98

Net.B@nk, Inc., the world’s largest and only profitable Internet-only bank, announced today its results for the year and fourth quarter ended December 31, 1998. For the year ended December 31, 1998, the Company recorded $4,464,000 net income or $0.70 per share compared to a ($5,577,000) loss or ($1.66) loss per share for a year ago. The Company noted that net income for the year included a one-time tax benefit of approximately $3.0 million or $0.48 per share related to prior year tax losses. Net income for the three months ended December 31, 1998 was $733,000 or $0.11 per share compared to a ($839,000) loss or ($0.14) loss per share for the quarter ended December 31, 1997.

Referring to the results, D. R. Grimes, CEO of Net.B@nk, stated, “The fourth quarter of 1998 continued a record-breaking year for Net.B@nk. 1998 was our first full year of operations as an FDIC-insured thrift. It was also a year when we became the first and only profitable Internet-only financial institution, an accomplishment rare for any e-commerce business. We increased our deposits by almost five-fold to $283.6 million while our total assets quadrupled to $388.4 million. The bank continued its unprecedented growth with a 266% increase in its number of customer accounts in the year 1998 to 17,408 accounts. This growth has carried forward into 1999 with over 20,000 accounts as of today. Total assets as of February 15, 1999 are over one-half billion dollars with the completion of our second offering of our stock on February 5, 1999.”

Grimes further stated, “With these levels of unprecedented growth, and having solidly established the profitability of our business model, we made a strategic decision during the fourth quarter to grow the bank much more aggressively. We have a great opportunity to capitalize on our success as the industry’s first mover and further establish Net.B@nk as the dominant brand name in Internet banking. While we will continue to maintain our original mission of operating a profitable Internet bank, we plan to significantly increase our customer base and core deposits in the future.

“Our profitable fourth quarter operations were obtained in an environment of narrower interest margins and increased marketing efforts. However, continuing our longstanding commitment to share our cost advantages with our customers, Net.B@nk offered among the highest FDIC-insured checking, money market and CD rates in the country. We can continue to offer higher interest rates than other banks due to the lower costs of operating an Internet bank versus the expensive branch office structure of traditional ‘bricks-and-mortar’ banks.”

Grimes said, “We are also committed to complete, convenient, quality banking services. Our new web site offers the most complete set of banking services available from any Internet bank, including the best free-checking account available. We began offering brokerage and lending services in the spring of 1998. As of the end of the year 1998, we had funded over $100 million in first mortgage loans applied for over the Internet.” He specifically noted that 94% of the Bank’s loan portfolio at December 31, 1998 related to single-family residential properties.

Thanking his fellow employees, strategic partners, such as Bisys, CheckFree, NCR, Uvest and Edify, and the bank’s customers, Grimes concluded that the Company would continue to expand its services and alliances in 1999 including such unique services as the bank’s Turbo Tax(TM) link for individual income tax return preparation. Grimes noted that the bank had already begun to aggressively market all of the bank’s services with expanded web site and print advertisements in 1999.

The Company, which went public in July 1997 and completed a second offering in February 1999, has customers throughout all 50 U.S. states and over 20 foreign countries.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFO FOR 4Q/98 PLEASE VISIT CardData ([www.carddata.com][1])

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

Details

VISA & Netroscope

Netroscope, the leading Internet market-research and consulting firm focused on evaluating cutting-edge computer technologies and market trends, this week announced the addition of John Valente, Senior Vice President of Visa International, to the company’s Board of Advisors.

John Valente is Senior Vice President in charge of the Information Application Development Division for Visa International. Valente’s current responsibilities include the areas of WEB Development, Data Warehousing, Predictive Systems and the distribution of information throughout Visa and to its Member financial institutions. Prior to his current duties Valente led a 5 year effort to redevelop the main Clearing and Settlement processes within Visa. These systems process over 100 Million transactions and settle over $3 Billion dollars a day.

“I strongly believe in Netroscope’s continued success and rapid growth as a leading Internet market-research and consulting company,” said John Valente, Senior Vice President, Visa International. “I look forward to guiding Netroscope to their next level of industry-wide business strategies.”

John Valente joins Netroscope’s Advisory Board along side Craig Canine, Managing Editor of Computer Letters at Technologic Partners; Sandy Creighton, General Counsel of MIPS Technologies, Inc.; Barbara Dawson, Director of Software Strategies in Business Desktop Marketing at Intel Corporation; Dr. Siamak Hassanzadeh, Senior Business Development Manager of Sun Microsystems; Maureen O’Gara, Publisher at G2 Computer Intelligence; Art Olbert, Vice President of Business Development at IBM Corporation; and Linda Reid, Vice Chair of Engineering at UC Berkeley Extension.

“We feel privileged to have such a distinguished industry leader take a proactive role in providing guidance for our company,” said Natalie Shaheen, Founder and President of Netroscope. “Mr. Valente will bring industry insight and expertise to Netroscope from a strategic IT organization’s vantage point.”

Prior to joining Visa, Valente held the position of Vice President with Citicorp, responsible for new systems development supporting Citicorp’s Consumer Retail Banking and Credit Card businesses. He also held various systems development management positions with Norton Company, a Worcester Massachusetts based manufacturing firm. In total Valente has over 29 years experience in the Information Systems Development arena.

About Netroscope

Netroscope is a cyber-centric market-research and consulting company focused on evaluation and assessment of leading-edge technologies and market trends, with the objective of supporting strategic business requirements of the industry. Netroscope’s services include syndicated and customized research, marketing and sales support services, assessment of corporate and vendor trends, “thinking council” advisory services, monthly newsletters, and daily alerts. For more information about services offered by Netroscope, please contact Netroscope, Inc.

Details

Bankruptcy Reform Returns

The ‘Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999’ was introduced into the U.S. House yesterday by Rep. George Gekas. The legislation mirrors the bankruptcy reform bill considered last year. The legislation would force more consumers to file Chapter 13 instead of Chapter 7. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde said. “Our nation’s bankruptcy system is one of the world’s most progressive, and we must keep it that way.” Hyde said the system is being undermined by a deluge of bankruptcy filings during this period of unparalleled prosperity. The economic cost of this burden is largely borne by responsible consumers who, as a result, are paying higher interest rates for borrowed funds. “Congress must confront the issue directly and curb abusive and predatory practices of those who would game the system,” he added. Bankruptcy filings continue to reach record levels. For the 12 month period ending Sept. 30, bankruptcy filings reached an all time high of 1,436,964. Chapter 7 filings accounted for 71% of the total, while Chapter 13 filings accounted for 28%. Personal bankruptcy in Japan continues to grow by 40% annually. Last year 103,800 individuals filed for personal bankruptcy in Japan compared to 56,494 in 1996.

Details

Phone Card Crammer Settles

Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher announced yesterday that Pennsylvania and 14 other states have reached a settlement with a Texas-based company accused of using deceptive tactics to enroll thousands of consumers across the country in a telephone “calling card” program.

Fisher said his Bureau of Consumer Protection reached the agreement with RRV Enterprises, Inc., of Houston, Texas, doing business as Consumer Access, a long distance telephone reseller. The “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” agreement resolves alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.

According to the Attorneys General, Consumer Access in 1997 and 1998 held contests to give away a car or a significant cash prize. Consumer complaints revealed that many had entered the contest without realizing they had enrolled in the telephone “calling card” program, which resulted in monthly service charges being billed to their home telephone.

“This alleged practice is known as `cramming,'” Fisher said. “We contend that in this particular case thousands of consumers believed they were entering a contest, not buying a calling card. In the majority of complaints my office received, consumers said they first learned about the `calling card’ program when the initial fee or service charges appeared on their phone bill.”

Fisher said the $4.96 activation fee and $4.06 minimum monthly service charge appeared on consumers’ telephone bills without explanation. In some cases, he said, these charges went undetected for several months.

“We believe the agreement will change the way this `calling card’ service is promoted,” Fisher said. “As a result, the alleged practice of billing for unauthorized services will stop.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Consumer Access does not admit to any wrongdoing and agrees to:

— pay a full refund to consumers who were billed for services within the last year but denied signing the entry form or authorizing the service.

— refund the activation fee and one month’s charges for consumers who claim they were unaware they had signed up for the “calling card” when entering the contest.

— refrain from billing any consumers in the future without first obtaining the proper authorization.

— create two-part forms that allow consumers to enter a contest without enrolling in any program for goods or services.

— clearly and conspicuously disclose the nature of the solicitation.

— send consumers a confirmation letter prior to billing.

Consumers who suspect they are eligible for a refund should contact Fisher’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 to file a complaint. Complaint forms can also be obtained by visiting the Attorney General’s website at .

The company will also pay $490,000 to the states for the costs of investigation and public protection purposes. Pennsylvania’s share will be $35,000.

The 14 other states participating in the settlement include: Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

The agreement was negotiated by Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Barry Creany of Fisher’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in Ebensburg.

Details

i2u Banking

Online System Services said Wednesday it will deliver ‘i2u Banking’, a customized, turn-key electronic banking solution, to CU Cooperative Systems, Inc. (CO-OP Network), the largest credit union EFT network in the country encompassing over 500 credit unions and over seven million cardholders. The contract is projected to generate $25 million in revenue over its five-year term for OSS.

Details

Smart Card Biometrics

In a move to provide the highest level of security for electronic transactions, Schlumberger has signed a memorandum of understanding with Keyware Technologies. Under the agreement, Keyware will use Schlumberger smart card technology as a platform for its Layered Biometric Verification (LBV) technology, enabling Schlumberger and its Business Associates to deliver innovative and exceptionally secure solutions to customers world-wide.

LBV(R) adds an important new dimension to the high levels of security Schlumberger provides against smart card forgery and cloning, by ensuring that the card user is indeed the legitimate owner. Such assurance is vital for controlling access to secure areas or to sensitive computer information. Smart card-based solutions offer major advantages over traditional biometric verification delivery technologies which typically require on-line access to databases of personal information.

“Security is a key driver for the adoption of smart-card based solutions, and we are continually seeking to extend our portfolio of techniques,” said Geoffrey Morton, Schlumberger Manager, Business Associates. “The use of biometric identification for controlling access is becoming increasingly popular for government and military applications and in areas like healthcare and e-commerce. As well as helping to deliver the enhanced levels of security these sectors are seeking, Keyware’s unique open architecture software gives great flexibility in developing custom solutions.”

“Smart card-based biometric verification opens the door to a whole range of very powerful secure applications,” said Francis Declercq, Keyware Technologies President & CEO. “At the same time, it gives individuals ownership of their personal information. Schlumberger has a proven track record in smart card technology and readers, and shares our innovative approach to meeting customer demand for creative solutions which are user friendly and simple to deploy.”

Biometric verification relies on referencing stored details of unique personal attributes – such as fingerprints, voice, facial characteristics – to verify identity, and is becoming increasingly popular for secure and sensitive applications. By storing this personal information on a smart card, users will in future carry a completely foolproof means of identification. Identities can be verified off-line within a smart card terminal, using the processing capability of a voice/face verification DSP chip currently under development by Keyware. This ability to check identity locally – potentially using a spoken password – means for example that public and mobile phone networks could provide the infrastructure for highly secure communications.

Keyware Technologies’ LBV(R) open architecture allows several different biometric verification technologies to be integrated, further enhancing flexibility and providing considerable scope for tailored solutions.

About Keyware Technologies

Keyware Technologies is a global technology company and the pioneer and leader in Layered Biometric Verification (LBV(R)) for enhanced security. Keyware specializes in applied biometrics – the science of verifying an individual’s identity by means of personal characteristics such as voice, face and fingerprints. These unique and inimitable biometric features are recorded, analyzed and matched against previously stored spoken passwords, prints and facial snapshots and ensure the highest possible security levels. Keyware Technologies uses biometrics to create security solutions for multiple markets including network and data security (e.g. Internet & Intranet, remote access, desktop access), telephony and physical access control. The company was founded in 1996 and has a head-office in Brussels and an office in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1998 Keyware Technologies received the ‘Special Achievement Award’ from the editors and readers of Computer Magazine and the Voice+ Award for ‘Best Mobile Solution’. Keyware Technologies offers its products through OEM’s to System Integrators and VARs. For more information visit Keyware’s Web site at www.keyware.com or try out our voice verification demonstration over the phone at +32 2 721 58 29.

About Schlumberger

Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals is the leading provider of smart card-based solutions worldwide, shaping the new world of smart solutions by providing leading-edge technology to enable innovative smart card and terminal applications that enhance the security and convenience of businesses and communities of all kinds. Schlumberger smart card solutions encompass a wide range of cards, terminals, development tools and support in open configurations for operators, developers, integrators and distributors worldwide. As part of the Smart Village(R) vision, the Schlumberger offer includes the milestone Cyberflex(TM)card, the industry’s first Java(TM)-based smart card. The Smart Cards & Terminals group operates 45 facilities in 34 countries across the globe. Additional information is available on the World Wide Web at

Schlumberger Test & Transactions comprises Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals and Schlumberger Automated Test Equipment, leveraging the combined strengths of these two business units to provide leading-edge, cost-effective solutions to customers.

Schlumberger Test & Transactions is a business unit of Schlumberger Limited, a $11.8 billion global technology service company providing oilfield services, natural resources management, transactions-based technology and associated systems, and semiconductor test equipment.

Layered Biometric Verification and LBV are registered trademarks of Keyware Technologies. Cyberflex and Reflex are trademarks, and Smart Village is a registered trademark of Schlumberger. Java and Java Card are trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Details

M&I Data Deal

M&I Data Services, a leading financial software and services provider, has signed an outsourcing agreement with Mount Prospect National Bank, the fastest growing financial institution in northern Illinois. The bank opened its doors in September 1997 and by the end of 1998 had assets of $97 million. Mount Prospect National Bank draws its customer base from both inside and outside the Cook County, Ill., area. The bank will complete its transition to M&I Data Services in May of this year.

Mount Prospect National Bank needed a new processing partner after its current provider decided to exit the outsourcing business. The choice to partner with M&I Data Services was based on Mount Prospect’s need for a high quality processing platform that offered the sophisticated banking products demanded by both retail and corporate customers. Also key to the decision was the reputation M&I Data Services possesses for high quality conversions.

M&I Data Services will provide all core application processing as well as equip the bank with BankerInsight(TM), a Windows-based, customer-focused software application for call centers and branches. Mt. Prospect National Bank will also utilize data warehouse, telephone banking, Internet banking, cash management and EFT/debit card processing services from M&I Data Services.

“My team, all 15+ year banking veterans, recognized that our technology partner is the key to meeting the changing needs of our customers,” said John Eilering, president, Mount Prospect National Bank. “We quickly determined that the advanced technology and proven high quality service offered by M&I Data Services puts it head and shoulders above the rest of the industry. And we are extremely pleased to have them as our technology partner for the future.”

M&I Data Services has provided financial institutions with a combination of technical expertise and banking knowledge for more than 30 years. “We are delighted to have Mount Prospect National Bank as a new customer,” said Owen Sullivan, president of the Outsourcing Business Group at M&I Data Services. “It is our mission to help our customers gain a competitive advantage through implementation of our technologically advanced software products and full range of integrated services.”

Mount Prospect National Bank is locally owned and operated, with more than $97 million in assets and $87 million in deposits. This financial institution is headquartered in Mount Prospect, Ill.

M&I Data Services is a provider of leading-edge technology solutions to the financial services industry. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., it offers consulting, software and processing solutions for financial institutions worldwide. The company’s rapid growth is being fueled by innovative product development, strategic product acquisitions and strong growth of its customer relationships. M&I Data Services is a division of Marshall & Ilsley Corporation (Nasdaq: MRIS), a $21.6 billion holding company. For more information, visit the M&I Data Services Web site at

Details

MasterCard – France

MasterCard International and the French Government Tourist Office kicked-off the third year of an exclusive alliance to promote France as a destination for travelers around the world. At the cornerstone of the alliance is MasterCard ‘Exclusives’ program, which offers customized travel packages; value certificates for special shopping and airline discounts and hotel and restaurant offers through the official France ‘1999 Discovery Guide’; airfare discounts; preferential treatment from designated hotels; free car rentals; and an ‘Insider’s Good Value Guide to France’. Through a comprehensive print and online advertising program, a marketing campaign with travel agents, and cardholder statement inserts, the program reached over five million travelers last year. Earlier this week MasterCard announced sweepstakes with Preview Travel for a Millennium Party at a French chateau.

Details

Card Protection Firms Settle

GEP, INC., and Bank Card Security Center, Inc., both of Casselberry, Florida and their owner, Steven Zwicker, have agreed to pay a $44,000 civil penalty, and in a separate settlement, Executive Industries, Ltd., and its owner Tony Cosantino, have also agreed to pay $22,000 in civil penalties to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. Both sets of defendants were charged by the FTC with selling a program that they claimed protected consumers from losses associated with lost or stolen credit cards. The companies misrepresented the extent of cardholders’ liability for the unauthorized use of a credit card, as well as the companies’ affiliation with consumers’ credit card issuers. The FTC alleged that the defendants, during their sales pitch, also violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by making false and misleading statements to induce consumers to purchase their services. In addition to paying civil penalties, both settlements also would prohibit the defendants from making any misrepresentations of fact material to a consumer’s purchasing decision.

According to the FTC’s complaint detailing the charges, GEP and Executive Industries sold the credit card protection program through telemarketing rooms on behalf of Tracker Corporation of America. (Tracker was a defendant with whom the FTC recently settled. According to that settlement, Tracker, a Canadian corporation and its president, Bruce Lewis, are permanently barred from selling credit card protection.) Bank Card Security Center sold the same program for itself. The FTC alleged that the defendants falsely represented to consumers that they were calling from, or on behalf of, the consumers’ credit card issuer. The FTC also alleged that the defendants falsely stated that to avoid liability for unauthorized charges, consumers only had 48 hours to report loss of a credit card, or its unauthorized use, and that failing to do so, consumers could be liable for thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. In fact, federal law limits consumers’ liability for unauthorized charges to $50 per credit card, and there is no specified time limit for reporting loss, theft, or unauthorized use of a credit card.

In separate proposed settlements, the defendants would be prohibited from future violations of the TSR, misrepresenting affiliation with any consumer credit card issuer, misrepresenting any consumer legal rights or obligations, or misrepresenting any other material fact to consumers. The settlements also would prohibit the defendants from disclosing information about consumers who purchased credit card protection from them.

Finally, the settlements contain other recordkeeping requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance.

The Commission vote to forward the complaints and the proposed consent decrees to the Department of Justice for filing was 4-0. The complaint and consent decree against Gep, Inc., Bank Card, and Swicker were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, in Orlando on February 23, 1999. The complaint and consent decree against Executive Industries and Costantino were filed in the U.S. District Court, District of Arizona, in Phoenix on February 23, 1999. They are subject to court approval.

Details