Upping the Ante

Membership services king Cendant Corporation is offering $2.7 billion to acquire credit insurance king American Bankers Insurance Group. In a letter to AIB’s Board last night Cendant made an offer of $58 per share in cash and stock, representing a 23% premium over AIB’s agreement to be acquired by American International Group. AIG announced December 22 its acquisition of AIB for $47 per share or $2.2 billion. Under terms of the December AIG agreement, AIB is prohibited from discussing offers from other interested bidders during a 120-day blackout period and if another bidders emerges AIG would be granted 19.9% of AIB’s common stock. Cendant said last night it will commence litigation this morning to eliminate the blackout period and the stock grant. Cendant was created through the merger of CUC and HFS on December 17.

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Raising Confidence in Shopping Online

A new Internet survey of consumer attitudes and behavior concerning online shopping indicates that businesses can increase consumer confidence in shopping online by addressing two key concerns security of payments and the reliability of businesses. Greenfield Online, Inc. conducted the research on behalf of BBBOnLine, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

“This research has important implications for Sony and other businesses seeking to foster an ethical online marketplace.  We’re encouraged by the percentage of respondents purchasing products and services on the Net, the wide range of products likely to be purchased, and the many positive reasons consumers gave for shopping online,” said Patrick A. Flaherty, senior vice president, marketing services, Sony Electronics Inc. and chair of the BBBOnLine Board of Directors. (The BBBOnLine Board is composed of representatives from founding sponsor companies that provided the leadership and financial support to launch BBBOnLine  Ameritech, AT&T, Eastman Kodak Company, GTE, Hewlett-Packard, Netscape, Road Runner, Sony Electronics, USWEST Media Group, Visa U.S.A. and Xerox.)

“The data show that the business community can further increase consumer comfort in shopping online by addressing key security concerns.  Both online purchasers and non-purchasers said that they would shop more online if they could be assured that a company on the Web was reputable, and if they were confident in the security of paying online for orders and services,” the BBBOnLine chairman said.

In presenting the BBBOnLine survey findings, Council of Better Business Bureaus President James L. Bast said  “It’s the perception of half the respondents that there are many disreputable companies offering products for sale on the Web, and both purchasers and non-purchasers seek cues to indicate the reputability of a company on the Web.  Greenfield Online has concluded from these and other findings that recognition of companies on the Web by a reputable third party, such as the Better Business Bureau, would definitely have a positive effect on online purchasing, particularly with people who are already online purchasers.  This highlights the value of our BBBOnLine program in boosting consumer confidence and voluntary self-regulation of business in the electronic marketplace.”

KEY OBSERVATIONS

In its analysis of the Cybershoppers Survey data, Greenfield Online reported the following key observations

* The main concern of survey respondents is the security of online       shopping, and those who have never purchased anything online are       especially worried about this.

* The reliability of businesses on the Web is one of the key concerns to       online consumers, and more online purchasers, than non-purchasers,       reported that solving this problem would encourage them to buy online.

* The recognition of online companies by a reputable third party would       make online shoppers more confident about the purchases they make on the       Web.

* Most of the survey audience are active online shoppers and buyers.

ONLINE SHOPPING BEHAVIOR

When questioned about their online purchase behavior, respondents revealed

* Frequency of purchases online  More than two-thirds (69%) of those       participating in the survey reported having placed an order online in       the past.  A majority (63%) shop online at least once a month, and 27%       shop online at least once a week.

* Who has purchased online Nearly three-quarters (74%) of the male       respondents have ordered something online, with 59% of females reporting       the same.

* Average online spending  Online purchasers spent on average $446 on the       Net in the past 12 months, with 16% having purchased products and       services for over $1,000.  The average amount spent on the most recent       purchase is $157.

* Price range comfort level on the Net  The average price limit at which       respondents would be uncomfortable purchasing an item on the Web is       $1,500.

* Products and services considered suitable for online shopping  Computer       software was found to be the product people most likely would buy on the       Web (77%).  Other items likely to be purchased online include books       (67%), CDS (64%), computer hardware (63%), airline tickets (61%) and       magazine subscriptions (53%).

* What consumers are NOT likely to buy on the Net  More than half (60%)       reported that they are unlikely to buy insurance on the Net.  Other       items unlikely to be purchased online include food/drinks (55%) and       financial services (53%).

* Reasons FOR placing orders online Of those who have ever placed an       order online, 88% cited convenience as their main reason for       cybershopping.  Other reasons for making an online       purchase include price (cited by 58%), access to items not available       elsewhere (48%), selection (42%) and no pressure from salespeople (38%).

* Reasons for NOT buying online The 31% who have never bought anything       online are mostly concerned about the security of payment (75% reported       such a concern).  Other main barriers to purchase cited by non-       purchasers include payment structure (46%), reliability of companies       (36%), returning items (36%) and lack of privacy policy (33%).

CONCERNS REGARDING ONLINE PURCHASES

* Security of payment concerns Of those surveyed, 83% cited security of       payment as a main concern about online shopping.  Nonetheless, while       security of payment is of chief concern, 59% of respondents have used       their credit card online to pay for their purchases.

* Other major concerns Besides the security of payments issue, other       issues of concern to a large number of online users include reliability       of businesses (cited by 73% of purchasers, 82% non-purchasers) privacy       (71% purchasers, 84% non-purchasers), the possibility of returning items       bought on the Web (65% purchasers, 77% non-purchasers) and resolving       differences with online merchants (45% purchasers, 69% non-purchasers).

* Disreputable companies on the Web About half of the respondents agreed       that there are many disreputable companies offering products for sale on       the Web.

* Cues to business reliability The key cue respondents look for to       indicate the reputability of a company is awareness of the business name       (75%).  Other cues mentioned by a majority of purchasers include brand       familiarity (68%) and the presence/stature of the business offline       (52%).  In addition to business name recognition, non-purchasers look to       brand familiarity (64%) or recommendations from friends/family (42%) as       reliability cues.

ENCOURAGING ONLINE PURCHASES

* Inspiring confidence in unknown companies on the Web A large majority       (84%) agreed that the recognition of companies on the Web by a reputable       third party (such as the Better Business Bureau) would make them more       confident about buying from companies they do not know.  More than       three-quarters (78%) report that they would shop more online if they       could be assured a company is reputable.

* Ways to encourage online purchases  Ways to encourage online purchases       that were most frequently cited by non-purchasers were more security       (36%), followed by price/payment (24%).

IN CONCLUSION

Greenfield Online issued the following conclusions regarding the survey findings

* The two key concerns about online shopping are the security of payments       and the reliability of businesses.

* Recognition of online companies by a reputable third party would       definitely have a positive effect on online purchasing; however, it       would have the strongest impact among those who are already online       purchasers.

* To convert non-purchasers, the barrier of security of payments has to be       overcome before other considerations can impact behavior.

About the Survey

During the 1997 holiday season, survey participants were routed to an online shopping survey at the Greenfield Online Web site through links from the sites of BBBOnLine founding sponsor companies. Participation was voluntary and a total of 500 respondents was selected randomly among those who participated in the survey.  The margin of error in the data is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points depending on the variance and the response rate of the particular question.  Greenfield Online, Inc. is a leading marketing research company that conducts research using the Internet.  Based in Westport, Conn., Greenfield has a worldwide base of 500,000 Internet households.

About BBBOnLine

BBBOnLine is the Web’s most prominent self-regulation program for online marketers.  More than 700 online businesses — ranging from large marketers like Procter & Gamble, J. C. Penney Company and Lands’ End, to medium and small retailers — have qualified to be a BBBOnLine participant. To qualify, businesses must be a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), meet high standards, which include a satisfactory record with the BBB, make significant commitments to their customers, and agree to resolve complaints quickly and fairly.  BBBOnLine participating businesses are permitted to demonstrate their customer commitment through the use of a BBBOnLine seal on their web site. Consumers are able to click on the BBBOnLine seal and instantly get a BBB company profile on the participating company.

For more information about the BBBOnLine consumer confidence program, visit on the Web.

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EDI-USA Selects EDS

EDS has signed a five-year agreement to be the exclusive electronic data interchange transaction processing provider for EDI-USA, the only nationwide electronic network sponsored by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

By implementing EDS’ Electronic Commerce Management System (ECMS), EDI-USA will assemble the right combination of technology, customer service and support to accelerate business growth and expand new business opportunities. In addition, the collaboration will allow EDI-USA to leverage EDS’ advanced technology to provide additional electronic commerce services, and improve its ability to help customers with such issues as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Year 2000 compliance.

Terrence D. Arndt, Chief Executive Officer EDI-USA stated, “We are extremely pleased to be working with EDS.  We are focused on delivering value and quality to our customers and EDS’ proven track record in the information technology and health care industries will help us to create and sustain a competitive advantage.”

EDS is a recognized leader in electronic commerce with more than 35 years of experience in the health care industry.  The pact with EDI-USA enables EDS to augment connections with commercial payers and Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans.  The relationship also allows EDS to leverage ECMS, its advanced and proven transaction processing platform.

“Increasing EDS’ presence in the health care electronic commerce arena is a major strategic goal.  This agreement with EDI-USA will extend EDS’ already significant number of connections throughout the health care industry, moving us closer to a pervasive electronic commerce service that creates greater efficiency in financial, administrative and clinical transactions for our customers,” states Jeff Kelly, President, EDS Health Care Strategic Business Unit.

EDI-USA, Inc., a Stamford, Conn.-based company, offers electronic claim submission, electronic remittance advice, electronic funds transfer (EFT), and interactive eligibility verification.  In 1993, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association contracted with EDI-USA to build and operate a national electronic gateway for Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans and their providers, creating a single interface to commercial payers and other managed care organizations. Today, EDI-USA contracts with 95 percent of the nation’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans and more than 500 other payer organizations.

EDS, the official information technology services provider for World Cup 1998, is a leader in the global information services industry.  The company’s approximately 100,000 employees specialize in applying a range of ideas and technologies to help business and government customers improve their economics, products, services and relationships.  EDS, which serves customers in 42 countries, reported revenues of $14.4 billion in 1996.  The company is independent and publicly owned, and its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange under the symbol EDS.  EDS can be visited via the Internet at .

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Ugandan Smart Cards

During her recent tour of Africa, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright praised business and government officials of Uganda for the overwhelming progress the central African nation has made to improve the economic and overall living conditions of its citizens.

Her office also has been made aware of the significant contributions to the Ugandan economy by U.S. private industry, namely companies like Productivity Enhancement Products Inc. (PEP) of Laguna Hills.

Since January 1996, when PEP’s Smart Card-based EMAX system was installed at the International Credit Bank (ICB) in the capital city of Kampala, it has become the most widely accepted payment system in Uganda other than Uganda shillings, said Gary Beadle of PEP’s Smart Systems Division.

And, he added

— More than 4,000 Ugandans now use the PEP Smart Cards to make purchases at 500 merchant locations.  The public’s acceptance is growing at a rate of 250 new customers monthly.

— More than $1.5 million (U.S. dollars) are being transacted per month and the rate is growing exponentially.

— The system has been accepted for fuel purchases throughout the country, and by the Uganda Revenue Authority (IRS equivalent) for tax payments and license fees.

— Ugandan government agencies continue to endorse the Smart Money system.  All government offices must buy fuel and pay taxes with a Smart Card.

Corruption and fraud are seen as the largest threats to continued economic growth and stability in Africa. Prior to the introduction of cashless transactions, consumers and merchants alike were subject to daily threats of robbery, injury and even death. Another concern in Uganda is misuse of fuel and telephones. Patrick Katto, president of ICB, said his government will “save millions of shillings lost through fraudulent rackets in fuel alone by using Smart Cards.”

There are three major components to PEP’s Advanced eXchange (EMAX) system

1.  The PC-based software allows the bank to initiate and maintain smart card accounts and provides account reconciliation with the merchant and consumer transactions, as well as card issuance and maintenance functions.

2.  The point of sale merchant terminals accommodate one card for the merchant and one for the consumer.  When the consumers make a smart card purchase, their money is immediately and safely transferred to the merchant card.  Each transaction is electronically recorded and provides a complete audit trail.

3.  The Smart Cards are available as consumer or merchant cards and are protected by individual Personal Identification Numbers (PINs), photos and/or logos on the card.

“Doing business in Uganda has been easy,” he said, “with none of the problems usually associated with Africa. Merchants were quick to adopt to the system and the challenge of teaching Ugandans how to use PIN numbers was overcome in a reasonable time period.”

Despite America’s perceptions that the African way of life is primitive, Beadle said people are walking around with cellular phones and alphanumeric pagers. “Every other block has a sign saying, ‘you too can become a computer programmer.'”

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DFW Parking

TX-based Triumphant Enterprises and Imperial Bank announced Tuesday they have landed a contract to provide credit card processing at all Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport parking toll plazas. The system is scheduled to be online by April 1 and will cover 50 parking toll booths in seven locations. Last year DFW’s parking toll plazas handled an average of 55,000 vehicles per day. The system will use Data Card terminals connected by Triumphant’s ‘LAN’ technology. Imperial Bank recently began credit/debit processing at Los Angeles International Airport, Ontario International Airport and John Wayne Airport.

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Emerging Technologies

Gartner Group, Inc. reported this morning in its web-based Business Technology Journal the 10 technologies to watch in 1998. This report – which is written for business leaders who are not technology professionals – features 10 emerging technologies that are receiving media attention and predicts the technologies that will have a significant impact on businesses during the next five years.

“The ability for business leaders to capitalize on emerging technologies is a high-stakes, time-sensitive game. Jumping onto a new technological bandwagon too early could be a costly mistake, but missing the right opportunities could be just as costly,” comments Jackie Fenn, vice president and research director, GartnerGroup. “The report helps business managers make intelligent decisions about when to invest in new technology,” says Ms. Fenn.

When Will These Technologies Be Ready for Business?

Emerging technologies typically follow a pattern of hype, disillusionment, enlightenment and productivity. Understanding this predictable pattern of new technology helps business leaders make intelligent decisions about when to implement these technologies.

According to GartnerGroup’s Business Technology Journal

Biometrics and electronic cash are technologies that are gaining     increasing attention, but they are not ready to fulfill their     promise across all industries.

Push technology, smart cards and network computers have not met     the initial, wildly enthusiastic predictions for widespread     adoption. Business Technology Journal points out that they will     continue to be out of favor until new developments establish their     productivity.

Speech recognition, desktop videoconferencing and personal digital     assistants have been promoted for years and are finally at the     stage of general acceptance and utility.

Document imaging and database mining are emerging technologies     that are demonstrating real-world benefits, and will thus see     widespread adoption across all industries during the next two     years.

Initially, the market expectation of a new technology is greater than its real-world contribution. However, GartnerGroup’s Business Technology Journal concludes that specific industries can benefit from adopting technologies at the height of market enthusiasm. GartnerGroup analysts featured in Business Technology Journal forecast that banking, insurance and media organizations should adopt push technology in the early stages of development. Moreover, governments will find relevant uses for biometrics by 1999. Consumer packaged goods, government and higher education will find productive uses for electronic cash during the next two years.

What Are the 10 Emerging Technologies to Watch?

According to GartnerGroup’s Business Technology Journal, the 10 technologies to watch in 1998 are

Biometrics In computing, a system’s ability to recognize an     individual according to one or more unique physiological     characteristics, like a fingerprint, facial features, voice, or     even the iris of an eye.

Desktop Videoconferencing The ability of two or more     geographically separated users to meet via their personal     computers (PC). A typical system involves a PC, a monitor-mounted     camera, a network connection, and special software that     facilitates the exchange of video and audio streams.

Data Mining The process of discovering a meaningful correlation,     patterns, or trends by sifting through large amounts of stored     data using pattern recognition technologies as well as statistical     and mathematical techniques.

Document Imaging The conversion (i.e., digitizing) of paper     documents into electronic documents, by using a scanner or similar     device, and the subsequent storage and management of those     electronic images.

Electronic Cash Digital money, typically in the form of     downloadable “digital coins” that can be stored in an online bank     account, the user’s PC, or on a smart card.

Network Computer A simplified, low-cost desktop computer     designed to take advantage of a network. Network computers access     applications and data from the network to minimize the desktop’s     storage requirements, which reduces the cost of the computer.

Personal Digital Assistant A computer that can be held in the     palm of a hand that processes information for an individual.     Common functions include a directory of names, addresses and     telephone numbers, along with a calculator, to-do list, and note     pad.

Push Technology Software that automates the delivery of     information to individuals. In contrast, the World Wide Web is a     “pull” environment – users go to the Web for information. In a     “push” environment, information is sent to the user through a Web     browser, E-mail, or even voice mail or a pager.

Smart Card Similar in look and size to a credit card, a smart     card has an embedded microprocessor or memory chip, or both,     instead of simply the magnetic stripe commonly found on credit and     debit cards.

Speech Recognition A computer’s ability to “hear” the user.     Special software takes the sound of a user’s voice, digitizes it     and then compares it to a library of waveforms. When matches are     found, the computer can use a user’s words just as if they had     been typed through a keyboard.

About Business Technology Journal

The GartnerGroup Business Technology Journal () enables mainstream business leaders to understand how information technology (IT) can be applied and leveraged for competitive advantage. This journal explains and analyzes technology and its implications in simple, accessible terms that render it a powerful decision-making tool. GartnerGroup’s extensive and unique insights into IT provide this Web-based journal with relevant, actionable conclusions.

About GartnerGroup

As the world’s leading authority on IT, GartnerGroup provides clients with a wide range of products and services in the areas of IT advisory services, measurement, research, decision support, analysis, consulting and training. Founded in 1979, with headquarters in Stamford, Conn., GartnerGroup is at the center of a global community of more than 9,300 client organizations served by analysts in 80 locations worldwide. GartnerGroup’s unique capabilities and resources help bring clarity to the direction of the world’s hottest and most volatile industry. Additional information about the company is available on the World Wide Web at .

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VeriFone & Gemplus

Gemplus and VeriFone teamed up yesterday to offer a smart card-based Internet payment technology based on SET 1.0. The new application, unveiled at yesterday’s Internet Showcase in San Diego, combines Gemplus’ expertise in smart cards, reader ![][1]technology, and software modules with VeriFone’s ‘vWALLET’ payment technology. The new ‘vWALLET’ is simple to use consumers launch the software, insert the smart card into the reader attached to the PC and enter a PIN. The solution is fully portable to any Internet appliance configured for ‘vWALLET’. The first implementation is now underway in France as part of the ‘e-COMM’ pilot.

[1]: /graphic/gemplus/gemplus.jpg

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Remote Banking’s 98 Surge

The recently released Mentis research study, Remote Electronic Banking, reveals that approximately one-half of all banks will offer remote electronic banking by the end of 1998.  This is especially true of large banks (those with more than $4 billion in deposits) which are leading the way in the development of PC/Web-based banking programs. By the end of 1998, almost 83% of banks with greater than $4 billion in deposits will offer some type of remote banking to customers.  Smaller banks are also entering the arena with nearly 60% of banks having deposits between $1 and $4 billion, and 40% of banks with less than $1 billion in deposits offering remote banking to customers.

“Even the smallest of banks are realizing that PC/Web-based banking is something they need to start investing in now.  In the past, banks could adopt a wait and see attitude.  However, with more people owning PCs and using the Internet, banks are beginning to realize that by delaying the development of a home banking product they will ultimately loose their competitive advantage,” remarks Martin Molloy, Co-Project Manager of the Remote Electronic Banking research program.

Banks cite enhancing relationship management through improvements in customer service as a major reason for offering self-service options such as PC/Web-based banking.  Approximately 92% of all institutions state that customer service, customer loyalty, or customer satisfaction is the primary reason for offering these self-service options.  Only 4% cite decreasing transaction costs or revenue generation as the primary reason for bringing these services to market.

Molloy comments, “By offering customers transactional web sites or the ability to use personal financial management software, such as Quicken or Microsoft Money, banks hope to prevent customer migration and to attract new customers.  Traditionally, customers who have used these services to manage their banking relationship are among the most affluent and profitable of all bank customers.  Banks realize that these customers will migrate to the competition if the services they want are not available — that could prove disastrous to the bank.”

Overall, banks rely heavily on third-party vendors to develop their home banking products.  While some larger banks are able to develop their web sites or home banking software in-house, 63% of large banks (those with deposits of greater than $1 billion) use third-party vendors.  Smaller banks follow a similar trend with 47% relying upon third-party vendors to develop their PC/Web-based banking products.

Mentis Corporation is an international research firm specializing in the evaluation of information and communications technology (ICT) within the financial services industry.  For over a decade, Mentis Corporation has been evaluating industry conditions, profiling technology practices, tracking trends and assessing technology dependent strategies and initiatives.  By focusing on specific IT disciplines within the financial services industry, Mentis Corporation is uniquely qualified to provide a comprehensive source of expert, unbiased and timely information to assist financial institutions in making the best use of technology to achieve their strategic objectives.  For additional information, please call Michael Keegan, Marketing Manager, (919) 403-5000 x212 or inquiry@mentis.com.

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Visa Business Check Card

Writing business checks may soon be a thing of the past for small business if the new ‘VISA Business Check Card’ takes hold. Following extensive tests by seven U.S. issuers, VISA announced yesterday its new off-line debit card for business. The new card is targeted at small businesses with less than $10 million in annual sales and up to 100 employees. Cardholders will also be eligible to participate in various ‘VISA Business’ promotions including a vendor discount program called “Time to Cash In”. VISA estimates there are 7.5 million eligible business representing $359 billion in potential charge volume. VISA projects this market segment will expand by one million businesses by the year 2001.

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FDR Names Direct Banking Head

First Data Electronic Commerce Payments Services, a division of First Data Corporation, today announced that Randy Kahn, 49, has been named president of Direct Banking, which develops and hosts fill transaction Internet sites for financial institution clients.

Kahn, who built First Interstate Bank into an over $90 million national player in electronic banking services from 1986 to 1996, is charged with making Direct Banking the leading Internet partner for financial institutions across the country.

Kahn was formerly chairman of rules and operations for the National Automated Clearinghouse Association (NACHA), as well as a member of NACHA’s board of directors and executive committee. He was a charter member of the Bankers EDI Council, and an early member of the CommerceNet steering committee. Kahn teaches the technology section of the annual Payments Institute and is a frequent speaker on the business application of technology. From 1986-1997, Kahn served as director of Electronic Banking Strategy for Home Savings of America, the country’s largest savings and loan.

“Randy’s broad knowledge base, with two decades of experience in the financial services industry, will be key to our goal of making First Data the leader in developing Internet-based solutions for our clients,” said Chuck White, president of First Data Electronic Commerce Payment Services.

Hackensack, NJ-based First Data Corporation 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 card at the point of sale or over the Internet; by check or wire money. For further information about First Data, please visit the Company on the Internet at [www.firstdatacorp.com][1].

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

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Packard Bell Quicken Link

Packard Bell and Intuit Inc. have established a relationship to enable home PC users with Web browsers the ability to access the most up-to-date personalized financial information.

By double-clicking on an icon located on their desktop, Packard Bell users are instantly hot-linked to Intuit’s Quicken.com Web site where they have free and unlimited use of financial tools and information that help them make the most of their money.

Packard Bell’s relationship with Intuit is making it easier for consumers to better manage their financial lives. Quicken.com helps people make financial decisions in the areas of investing, banking, mortgages, investing, taxes, planning, insurance and more.

“Our customers frequently use their home computers for organizing household finances and budgets. Packard Bell is proud to work with Intuit in bringing the leading and most comprehensive financial service to our customers,” said Mal Ransom, senior vice president, marketing, Packard Bell NEC.

“We are offering a unique service for customers by providing personalized decision-making tools, an objective source of information and comparison shopping — all free to Packard Bell customers and integrated in one place for convenience and efficiency,” said Mark Goines, senior vice president, consumer finance division, Intuit.

With a double-click on the new quick-access icon, Packard Bell users are linked to Quicken.com, which features eight integrated and easy-to-use centers:

— Investments — Helps answer day-to-day investment questions, such as how investments are performing and how to identify and invest in the top mutual funds. The Quote Plus feature helps consumers make better investment decisions by giving them immediate access to highly relevant information about a company. The Mutual Fund Finder and Stock Searcher help people find investments that fit their needs. The Investment Center also fully integrates all the mutual fund capability at the Intuit’s former NETworth site.

— People & Chat — Provides an interactive community for people to talk with each other, as well as with subject matter experts as they make important financial decisions. Features interactive communities on investing strategies, such as the new Armchair Millionaire. Also includes a feature by consumer champion Richard L. Katz.

— Home & Mortgage — Saves consumers time and money by enabling them to comparison shop online for a mortgage. Interactive tools help people answer the questions “How much house can you afford?,” “Should you refinance today?” and “What are today’s rates?”

— Banking & Borrowing — Helps people find great borrowing and savings deals on a variety of banking products. Special features within this center include Credit Report Guide and Our Top Picks, a guide to other useful banking and borrowing sites on the Web.

— Insurance — Lets consumers compare real-time life insurance quotes, get information, connect with agents and even buy a policy online from among the most recognized insurance companies in the nation.

— Retirement — Helps people calculate their needs during retirement and then gives a step-by-step approach to developing and implementing their retirement plan. Consumers may use the Retirement Planner to decide what investment allocations to make based on a personalized interview.

— Saving & Spending — Helps people create a budget, save money and manage their debt. Special features include a Debt Reduction Planner, a Financial Fitness Quiz and a Financial Health Checkup that provides financial help and tips tailored to individual needs.

— Tax — Provides tax help, forms, tools and information online. Tools and information include Tax Estimator, Tax Law Change Updates, Personal Tax Guide, Small Business Tax Guide and Tax Calendar.

About Packard Bell NEC

Credited with having pioneered the mass marketing of PCs through the retail channel, Packard Bell brings innovative, affordable technology to the greatest number of homes in the world.

Based in Sacramento, Packard Bell NEC is the second-largest computer manufacturer in the United States and one of the largest in the world. The company designs, manufactures and markets a wide variety of desktop, notebook and mobile computers and network servers under the Packard Bell NEC and Zenith Data Systems brands.

The company’s major manufacturing operations are in Sacramento; Fife, Wash.; Angers, France; Penang, Malaysia; and Sydney, Australia.

For more information on the Packard Bell brand, customers can call 800/733-5858 or visit [www.packardbell.com][1] on the World Wide Web.

About Intuit Intuit, a financial software and Web-based services company, develops and markets Quicken, the leading personal finance software; TurboTax, the best-selling tax preparation software; and QuickBooks, the most popular small business accounting software. Intuit’s Quicken.com Web site offers a complete set of personal finance news, information and tools, including the leading mutual fund and insurance sites. Intuit’s products and services enable individuals, small businesses and financial professionals to better manage their financial lives and businesses.

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

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4Q Update

More data poured in yesterday in response to Bankcard Update/Barometer/CardData’s ‘Fourth Quarter 1997 Portfolio Survey’.

ISSUER        RECV   QVOL   YVOL      ACTS   ATV    CIF
Wells Fargo  $7.3b  $3.6b  $11.3b    5.8m   2.9m   6.5m
Marine Mid   $1.8b  $1.2b  $ 4.4b    1.7m   0.8m   1.6m
SunTrust     $1.1b  $0.6b  $ 2.1b    1.3m   0.6m   1.4m

RECV-receivables; QVOL-quarterly volume; YVOL-year-to-date volume; ACTS-gross accounts; ATV-active accounts; CIF-cards-in-force Source Bankcard Update/Bankcard Barometer/CardData

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