GSA Signs Wright Express for Another 5

Wright Express Corporation announced Monday that it has gained approval to offer fleet card-based services to U.S. Government agencies in conjunction with American Express Co. , under a U.S. General Services Administration master contract recently awarded to American Express.  The five-year contract, with five one-year renewal options, goes into effect November 30, 1998.

Under the contract, Wright Express and American Express will provide individual Federal agencies and organizations with an integrated solution combining fleet, travel, and purchase capabilities.  In addition, both companies were awarded a stand-alone Fleet contract.

“We are delighted with the GSA’s decision,” said Paul Walsh, Wright Express’s president and chief executive officer.  “Since late 1996, we’ve worked closely with the Federal Government’s 380,000-vehicle fleet, managed by individual agencies and organizations within the Government, which includes the GSA’s fleet of 150,000 U.S.- based vehicles.  We therefore view this current, more comprehensive, GSA contract award as a resounding vote of confidence in our capabilities.”

Walsh stated, “We and American Express are both leaders in our respective markets — we in the fleet market, American Express in travel and purchasing – – and American Express also has tremendous experience in serving the U.S. Government’s needs.”  He explained that since 1993, American Express has helped the Government manage official travel expenses under the U.S. Government Travel Card program; there are currently more than 1.5 million federal employees who use the travel card for official travel, spending approximately $3.5 billion annually.

Wright Express’s CEO noted that the Government is currently seeking the next generation of card-based payment and reimbursement systems to accelerate its efforts toward re-inventing payment processing by applying commercial best practices, including advanced information technologies.

A subsidiary of Cendant Corporation (NYSE CD), Wright Express provides the number-one-performing universal fleet card that guarantees the lowest overall cost, along with the greatest convenience, security, and control to commercial car, van, and truck fleets throughout the U.S.  The card is the most widely accepted electronic fleet card in the U.S., honored at over 120,000 fueling sites nationwide — with 96% of all POS transactions electronically captured.  Wright Express also provides information processing, financial, and information management services through private label commercial credit card programs for 19 of the nation’s oil companies; and has cobranded fleet fueling cards with 25 partners, including the major commercial-vehicle-leasing companies in the United States.


Mellon Begins GSA Conference

Mellon Bank Corporation began outlining the features of its purchasing product to federal agency representatives during a kick-off conference in Washington, D.C. that runs through Wednesday, Feb. 25.  Contracts with these agencies will begin in November 1998 and run for five years, with five additional one-year options. Mellon was one of the six master purchasing card contractors announced by the federal General Services Administration (GSA).

Mellon Bank has a proven history of delivering a breadth of financial solutions to its customers, including the federal government.  “The core of our success in the financial marketplace is our presence, leadership and commitment, all of which are evident in the dynamic solutions we provide to our customers,” said Robert W. Stasik, executive vice president and head of Mellon Global Cash Management(SM).

“Like other industries, the federal government is establishing the groundwork for more of its employees to use purchasing cards for routine purchases,” said Tony Brady, project manager of Mellon’s government purchasing card initiative.  “They understand the value of saving expenses by simplifying their transactions and eliminating the paperwork usually associated with processing those purchases.”

According to Brady, Mellon’s purchasing card not only features present-day solutions, but anticipates future demands.  “Through our ability to redefine traditional purchasing card capabilities, we can provide extraordinary features to help the government offer greater benefits to its agencies,” he said.

As one of the select few cash management banks used by the federal government, Mellon currently supplies everyday financial services to more than 10 independent and quasi-government organizations.  Mellon also provides collection services for more than 25 government agencies and card-acquiring services to 36 agencies.

Supported by Mellon Bank’s 30-plus years of credit card experience, the Mellon Purchasing Card is flexible, easy-to-use and affordable for customers of all sizes.  “For years, we have had a dedicated purchasing card in place that has helped organizations tailor seamless programs that provided them with maximum benefits,” Brady said.

The Mellon Purchasing Card is offered in conjunction with MasterCard International, Inc. and can be used in the more than 14 million locations around the world where MasterCard is accepted.  In addition, an agreement with ProCard, Inc. provides purchasing card customers with the ProValue Services (PVS) accounting management software package, giving clients the ability to edit, review, reconcile and post transactions on-line to their internal accounting systems.

This purchasing card initiative is one of several current programs in which Mellon and the federal government are cooperating.  Others include

—  A joint effort between Global Cash Management and GSA to pilot an electronic solution that collects utility payments and forwards them directly to a customer’s account and accounts receivable system.

—  An initiative with the U.S. Department of the Treasury in which Mellon Network Services provides smart cards for new recruits at the U.S. Army training facility at Fort Knox, Ky.

—  An electronic commerce program in which Mellon and the Treasury’s Financial Management Services, are using the Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) protocol for restricted on-line access to the Bureau of Public Debt to purchase U.S. Savings Bonds and to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Services to purchase a wide variety of government surplus merchandise.     Mellon Global Cash Management, part of Mellon Bank Corporation, is an industry leader, designing complete solutions through its comprehensive line of cash management services to meet the specialized treasury needs of middle market to large multinational corporations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and financial institutions.

A broad-based financial services company with a bank at its core, Mellon Bank Corporation ranks among the nation’s largest bank holding companies in market capitalization.  With more than $300 billion of assets under management and $1.5 trillion of assets under administration, Mellon provides a full range of banking, investment and trust products and services to individuals and small, midsize and large businesses and institutions.  Its mutual fund company, The Dreyfus Corporation, places Mellon as the leading bank manager of mutual funds.  Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Mellon’s principal subsidiary is Mellon Bank, N.A.


Credit Complaints Rank 6th

Credit-related complaints continued to in the top of the Illinois Attorney General’s annual Top 10 list of consumer complaints announced this weekend.

Although home repair fraud continued to be the number one complaint among consumers last year, the clear trend since Ryan took office in 1995 is the emergence of substantial numbers of complaints for telephone “slamming” and computer-related fraud.

Slamming, the illegal switching of telephone service, remained in the number two position among 1997 complaints with 1,985, or 8.5 percent of the office’s 23,477 complaints.

Computer-related complaints — including those regarding online- and Internet-service providers, and other electronic devices such as television and radio — totaled 1,656, vaulting into fourth place on the list.

“Increasingly, the telephone and the computer are becoming the tools of the trade for con artists,” Ryan said.  “We are aware of the trend and are devoting more resources to fight these unscrupulous operators on their own turf.”

Ryan’s office leads the nation in the number of lawsuits filed to combat phone slamming, 17.  In addition, his office was a nationwide leader in resolving consumer issues related to America Online.

Of the nearly 24,000 complaints received by Ryan’s office last year, the top 10 were

1.  Home Repair, 10.8%, or 2,533 complaints.

2.  Slamming, 8.5%, or 1,985 complaints.

3.  Used Vehicle Sales, 7.2%, or 1,682 complaints.

4.  Electronic Devices (Computer, Radio & TV), 7.1%, or 1,656 complaints.

5.  Auto repair, 6%, or 1,411 complaints.

6.  Credit, 5.5%, or 1,290 complaints.

7.  Utilities, 4.6%, or 1,078 complaints.

8.  Mail Order, 3.6%, or 853 complaints.

9.  New Auto Sales, 3.6%, or 853 complaints.

10. Contests, Promotions, & Schemes, 3.1 %, or 736 complaints.

“The wide variety of complaints shows that many of our citizens, especially those who are vulnerable such as the elderly, are victims of scams every day,” Ryan said.  “People should exercise caution when doing business, whether purchasing a vehicle, looking for someone to do repair work or using the Internet.  Deal whenever possible with individuals and companies with good reputations, not fly-by-night services you know little or nothing about.  And never give your credit card or bank account numbers to persons you don’t know.”


Cardholder Statement Tools

First Data has developed new tools to help card issuers improve their target marketing efforts. These new tools include duplex printing and development of a Targeted Communications System. Duplex printing capabilities allow card issuers to print variable disclosure information on the backside of common front-page statements. To help card issuers customize cardholder communication and market to a segment of one, significant enhancements have been made to facilitate the design and composition of statements and other correspondence such as checks, coupons and card carriers.

Additionally, card issuers can now use over 200 decisioning elements to define which customers should receive specific statement messages and inserts. Clients are able to include up to five advertising messages printed per cardholder statement, and can group the printing of transaction data on statements by U$AVE transactions, sales returns, payments, cash advances, and other categories. This customization provides issuers with an easy, cost-effective method for meeting the individualized needs of their cardholders.


On a Roll

Central Europe’s only independent ATM network, Euronet Services, reported a 400% growth in revenues last year, from $1.2 million to $5.3 million. The startup company lost about $7.5 million annually for both 1996 and 1997. Euronet brought its Croatian network on-line in December and is getting ready to bring its first VISA ATM on-line, in the Czech Republic, this coming Friday.


Credit Scoring Trainer

New York-based Interactive Training LLC released a self- instructional CD-ROM this morning to teach the fundamentals of credit scoring. ‘Introduction to Scoring’ offers both general and technical information on how scoring systems are developed, validated and implemented. The training, which can be customized, is targeted at branch staff, authorizations personnel, business product and collection managers. Interactive Training is a partnership between Portfolio Management Associates, D.B. Lawrence & Co. and Arlene Solomon Associates.


Big League Player

It’s official Fleet Financial Group has completed its acquisition of Advanta’s credit card business, becoming the nation’s ninth largest credit card issuer with 8 million cardholders and about $15 billion in card loans. Former top Household card exec Joseph Saunders will lead the expansion of Fleet’s card business. Advanta held a special meeting for stockholders Friday afternoon to approve the transaction which has a total value to Advanta of $1.3 billion, including an after-tax gain of $500 million. Advanta will continue in the corporate card business but will focus 80% of its business in the nonconforming mortgage business. Fitch IBCA indicated Saturday it will lower Advanta’s debt ratings due to its concentration in mortgages. Fitch says heightened competition in the nonconforming mortgage market has resulted in an industry-wide increase in prepayments, raising challenges for Advanta.


ESS Open for Business

Members and customers of the American National Standards Institute can now begin receiving standards electronically by shopping for them at ANSI Online’s new Electronic Standards Store.

The store was created on the World Wide Web to meet the Institute’s needs for a faster and more cost-efficient way for members and customers to purchase and receive standards.

Launched as a pilot program last month, the ESS is open for business and currently carries an inventory of over 50 of the most frequently requested ANSI published standards including standards from committees T1 and X3, and international standards, including ISO 9000 and ISO 14000. More than 2,000 individuals have registered at the site after only one month of operation.

Store Inventory to be Expanded

In the coming weeks, the store will offer 300 more of the most widely sought American National Standards. ANSI is also negotiating with other national and international standards developers to expand the store’s inventory. The opening of the store marks the first phase of a three-phase rollout in 1998.

All the standards in the ANSI Electronic Standards Store are stored in Adobe Acrobat PDF+Text format. This format contains a complete bitmap picture of the original document, but with recognized text hidden behind the picture. This provides the advantages of searchable text while ensuring that the document is identical in appearance to the original.

Documents can be purchased online by a single user with any major credit card (Visa, MasterCard and American Express).

ESS Saves Time, Cuts Shipping Costs

“Although prices will be the same for paper or electronic copies, customers who obtain their standards electronically can save significantly in shipping and handling costs,” said Bob Feghali, ANSI’s vice president of sales and administration and chief information officer. “Customers will also see a tremendous savings in time, as documents can be downloaded immediately upon purchase.” Because of the large file size of some of the documents, ANSI is giving customers up to seven days following purchase to download the documents.

Members and customers can be assured, Feghali said, that all their transactions in the ESS are totally secure. ANSI has worked with leading companies in Internet security to maximize the safety of the transactions that are conducted over the World Wide Web.

In addition, all copyright provisions have been met to maintain the integrity of the standards, a provision that is similar to the publishing and distributing of hard copies. Documents can be searched and printed, but not modified.

ESS-NSSN Link Planned

In phase II, ANSI will establish a link between the NSSN, ANSI’s comprehensive standards retrieval service, and ANSI’s electronic store. The NSSN contains information on more than 250,000 national, international, foreign and regional standards. Users of the NSSN will have the ability to identify the standards they require and have the option of purchasing ANSI published and international standards from the ANSI store (if available), or be directed to the appropriate SDO or its designated reseller, all in one seamless transaction.

In phase III, ESS will be integrated with the ANSI Online catalog to electronically offer more than 50,000 national and international standards in electronic format if available, or hard copy format.

“The ESS will eventually replace the current e-mail system for ordering standards,” Feghali said. “ANSI’s goal is to provide true 24-hour store service that is both cost and time efficient.” In the future, ANSI plans to add value-added services including subscription-based ordering systems for standards and corporate or organizational deposit accounts.

ANSI is a private non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization system. Its mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and the American way of life by promoting, facilitating, and safeguarding the integrity of the voluntary standardization system. ANSI is the official U.S. representative to the world’s leading standards bodies; the International Organization for Standardization and, via the U.S. National Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission.


Cendant – ABIG Update

Cendant Corporation announced Friday that it has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission a registration statement for shares to be issued in connection with its previously announced offer to acquire American Bankers Insurance Group, Inc..

Cendant stated that while it is not yet required to do so, filing a registration statement at this time will enable the Company to expedite its acquisition of American Bankers following consummation of its pending tender offer.

Cendant has commenced a tender offer of $58 per share in cash for approximately 23.5 million shares of American Bankers, which together with shares Cendant owns will equal 51% of American Bankers outstanding shares. For the remainder of American Bankers’ shares, Cendant will exchange, on a tax-free basis, shares of its common stock with a fixed value of $58.

In addition, Cendant announced that the waiting period under the Hart- Scott-Rodino Act has expired with respect to its offer to acquire American Bankers, further clearing the way for consummation of the transaction.