EC Payables Live!

Sterling Commerce (NYSE: SE) today announced an alliance with Grant Thornton LLP to offer EC Payables Live!(SM)

This multi-step electronic commerce assessment and implementation process will help government agencies comply with the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, which requires government agencies to implement electronic payments by January 1, 1999.

![][1] EC Payables Live! combines Sterling Commerce’s decades of electronic commerce (EC) experience with Grant Thornton’s in-depth knowledge of the federal financial management process and systems. The overall solution consists of four phases:

EC Readiness, which provides an agency with an objective snapshot of its status toward implementing EC, and an appraisal of its capacity for making further progress in the short and long term. EC Payables Pilot, in which a short-term proof of concept is implemented that demonstrates desired business results and captures the metrics needed to develop a production business case. EC Payables Production, which includes both the technical aspects of installing production-grade EDI software, and the business aspects of re-engineering payables processes to take advantage of the savings offered by EC. Payables Partner program, which transitions an agency and its trading partners to an EDI environment.

“All federal agencies are faced with the challenge of complying with the electronic payments mandate,” said Howard Stern, director of government markets for Sterling Commerce’s Commerce Services Group. “EC Payables Live! offers a complete electronic commerce solution that leverages the sizable investments agencies have already made in their legacy systems.”

“Our alliance with Sterling Commerce combines the best in electronic Commerce with proven expertise in federal financial management,” said Hank Steininger, partner-in-charge of Grant Thornton’s federal consulting practice.

Sterling Commerce, with executive offices in Dallas, Texas, is a leading global provider of electronic commerce software products and services that enable businesses to engage in business-to-business electronic communications and transactions. Sterling Commerce has been providing electronic commerce solutions for over 20 years and has over 30,000 customers worldwide and more than 1,700 employees. For more information about Sterling Commerce products and services, visit Sterling Commerce on the World Wide Web at [ http://www.stercomm.com.][2]

Grant Thornton LLP, the seventh largest U.S. accounting and management consulting firm, provides a comprehensive range of professional services to organizations of all sizes. Worldwide, clients are served through Grant Thornton International’s 48 U.S. offices and 500 international offices in 85 countries. The Washington consulting practice provides value-added services in response to legislative challenges such as the CFO Act, regulatory challenges such as OMB guidelines, initiatives such as downsizing and privatization, and technology trends like data warehousing and client/server- based systems. Visit Grant Thornton’s Web site at for more information.

[1]: /graphic/grant_thorton/gt.gif
[2]: http://www.stercomm.com

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BlueGill to use CyberCash

BlueGill Technologies, Inc(TM) and CyberCash, Inc. (NASDAQ:CYCH) today announced that they will offer an Internet billing solution that incorporates CyberCash’s payment services and BlueGill’s 1 to 1 Server(TM). Combining CyberCash’s payment technology and BlueGill’s bill presentment application will provide a full, interactive solution to companies that want to deliver bills and statements online and have them paid directly at their website. With a solution that utilizes legacy system and web server management and secure Internet payments, companies are now empowered to control their own billing, reduce expenses, and strengthen their relationships with their banks and customers.

BlueGill’s 1 to 1 Server enables billers to generate personalized Internet bills and e-mail from existing print applications. BlueGill’s technology leverages a company’s investment in their legacy billing systems, and enables them to launch an Internet billing initiative without re-writing their legacy applications or the conditional processes, which generate the personalized messages.

To complete the billing cycle, CyberCash will add its PayNow(TM) Secure Electronic Check Service, enabling billers to accept payment online directly at their website. Combining payment with the presentment piece of interactive billing truly makes for a full p.pless billing solution; all of which enables a company’s billing system to be more efficient and cost-effective to run.

When paper statements are produced in volumes exceeding 1 million pages per month, the typical cost is approximately $0.50 per document. If a company has 5 million customers, for example, and it started delivering 1% of it’s monthly bills via the Internet instead of paper, the company would save $300,000 per year in printing and mailing costs alone.

“Billers have also learned that their monthly statements are the most cost-effective tool for communicating with their customers,” said Hal Davis, president of BlueGill Technologies. “Readership is guaranteed and personalized target marketing is made possible. With an online billing system, billers can build a strong `one-to-one’ relationship with their customers.”

“Combining BlueGill and CyberCash’s complementary solutions provides significant benefits to billers,” said Richard Crone, vice president of CyberCash and general manger of PayNow. “In a billing and receipt relationship, the check payment represents an ongoing commitment to continue the service for the next billing period, consummating what marketing people call the follow-on sale. This buying and commitment mindset is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly in crafting the statement review and customer-initiated buying and payment process.”

Companies can provide their customers the ability to analyze their statements, get immediate details on a particular item, view their payment history, or even save this information to their PCs; all of which can be provided and updated on a real-time basis. With the use of CyberCash’s payment service, these customers can now pay their statements securely online from any existing checking account.

As many companies have already begun to exploit marketing messages in their legacy documents, they can also leverage the traffic driven to their websites from their paying customers to cross-sell other products and services. Companies can extend their services and customer base by providing links and advertisements for new or existing products and services, which are placed strategically throughout the customers’ statements. Since it typically takes months to plan a marketing campaign, process for printing, complete inventory, and deliver the inserts with paper bills, companies can additionally reduce their marketing expenses and accelerate their online marketing campaigns.

Interactive billing not only provides key marketing tools that drive customers to a biller’s site and opens the doors for additional revenue streams, but bringing customers to the biller’s site increases the most prized asset of a company: the relationship with their customers. A complete interactive billing solution which combines BlueGill and CyberCash does not require a biller to post their company information, or offer their goods and services, at any other site except their own. This prevents a company from being intermediated from their customers and maintains this vital relationship.

“The billing and payment cycle is one of the most important and leverageable touchpoints with a customer as it maintains their ongoing commitment to the biller,” says Richard Crone, vice president of CyberCash and general manager of PayNow. “The deeper the relationship, the more likely they are to maintain their relationship in the wake of intense competition.”

As billers are fighting for ways to differentiate themselves, they need to provide added value at every point where they come in contact with their customers. With products from BlueGill and CyberCash, billers can build a strong personalized relationship with all of their Internet connected customers.

About CyberCash, Inc.

CyberCash, Inc. of Reston, Virginia, is a technology driven company that provides software and services to enable secure financial transactions on the Internet worldwide. The Company offers a complete suite of Internet payment solutions, including a credit card service, which handles payments using major credit cards; the Company’s innovative micropayment service, which enables cash transactions; and the secure electronic check service which allows customer-to-business and business-to-business funds transfer via checking accounts. CyberCash works with virtually all transaction processing institutions, and allows banks to offer secure Internet payment systems to their customers. The Company is traded on NASDAQ under the symbol CYCH.

About BlueGill Technologies, Inc.

BlueGill’s products enable large companies to distribute monthly statements and other documents over the Internet. BlueGill’s 1 to 1 Server bridges the gap between legacy printing applications and the Internet by building personalized HTML pages, PDF, other data files, e-mail and OFX from existing print and billing applications. These products allow billers to build better relationships with their customers by speeding the flow of statement information and presenting it in customized, personalized electronic format with added value beyond what traditional paper documents could deliver.

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MBNA’s J-Series Card Bonds Rated

MBNA Master Credit Card Trust II’s (MBNA) $637.5 million class A floating rate asset-backed certificates, series 1997-J, are expected to be rated ‘AAA’ by Fitch. The corresponding $56.25 million class B floating rate asset-backed certificates, are expected to be rated ‘A+’. The certificates are backed by a pool of receivables generated under MBNA MasterCard and Visa accounts. The expected ratings are based on the high quality of the receivables pool, available credit enhancement, MBNA’s underwriting and servicing expertise, and sound legal and cash flow structures.

Credit enhancement for the class A certificates totals 15% and is comprised of 7.5% subordination of class B certificates and a 7.5% collateral interest. The class B certificates, in turn, are enhanced 7.5% by the collateral interest.

For July, the trust chargeoffs increased to a weighted average of 4.87%, while portfolio yield and monthly payment rate increased moderately. Additionally, three month excess spread rebounded 21 basis points to 4.60%.

The trust portfolio has experienced an industry wide increase in delinquencies and chargeoffs which has impacted many credit card issuers over the last 18-24 months. Yet, MBNA’s chargeoffs have averaged 4.34% for the last twelve and 4.58% for the last six months. Additionally, MBNA’s chargeoffs continue to perform better than the industry average.

In an industry which has seen tightening margins or excess spread as a result of increased chargeoffs and consumer bankruptcy filings, MBNA has consistently managed losses within projections while its excess spread has remained stable. Fitch believes this reflects MBNA’s continued commitment to credit quality. Furthermore, Fitch is confident MBNA’s chargeoff rate will continue to perform within steady state projections.

With the levels of credit enhancement available, series 1997-J can withstand simultaneous declines of 35% in yield and 45% in monthly payment rates (MPR), while chargeoffs increase to a level of 28% and still make full interest and principal payments to class A investors. Class B enhancement covers simultaneous declines of 25% in yield and 35% in MPR, while chargeoffs rise to a level of 19%. In addition, to address the interest rate and basis risk associated with uncapped floating coupons, the available enhancement enables a coupon stress to historic-high LIBOR levels without a corresponding increase in portfolio yield.

Investors are protected from a deterioration in credit quality by early amortization events, which would trigger an early payout of investor principal. However, MBNA’s historically healthy and stable excess spread levels help to minimize this early amortization risk.

Class A and B certificateholders will receive monthly interest payments of 12 basis points and 30 bps over one-month LIBOR, respectively, throughout the revolving and accumulation periods and on the scheduled payment date, provided an early payout event does not occur. Following a variable accumulation period, principal is expected to be paid to certificateholders on the September 2004 distribution date. The series termination date is February 2007. As a part of Group One, series 1997-J will share excess principal collections with other Group One series. Series 1997-J is the tenth issue of 1997 and the thirty-eighth issue from the master trust.

For information about performance on any outstanding MBNA MCCT II series please refer to Fitch Asset-Backed Surveillance on the internet at or on Bloomberg by typing FTC “GO”.

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AmEx Czech Card

Czech Republic’s Komercni Banka and American Express signed agreements yesterday for Komercni to issue a new Koruna-denominated American Express Card. Kormercni entered into an independent operator agreement with American Express and will own the AmEx franchise in the Czech Republic becoming responsible for all operations supporting the AmEx card. Existing AmEx cardholders in the Czech Republic will have the option of converting from the current dollar-denominated card to the Koruna-denominated one..

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ICT Group Adds Three Call Centers

ICT GROUP INC. announced the opening of call centers in Lancaster and Sharonville, Ohio, and Martinsburg, W.Va., to enhance the company’s domestic teleservices offerings to clients primarily within the financial services, telecommunications and insurance industries.

“The opening of these newest call centers is clearly an indication of ICT GROUP’s commitment to expand and upgrade its domestic facilities and operations,” said John Brennan, chairman and chief executive officer.

“This expansion is part of ICT GROUP’s dedication to improving its capabilities and offering high-quality outbound telesales and customer care applications customized for specific industry sectors.”

The Lancaster call center, initially staffed by 120 telephone service representatives (TSRs), is equipped with 80 outbound predictive dialing stations. Specializing in outbound telesales to consumer households for clients within the financial services industry, this center is expected to expand to 120 integrated inbound/outbound stations.

The Sharonville center, staffed by 120 TSRs and equipped with 80 outbound predictive dialing stations, focuses on offering customized teleservices for the financial services, telecommunications and publishing industries.

“We now have three call centers in Ohio,” said Jack Magee, president of ICT TeleServices. “All our facilities draw upon an experienced, high-quality regional labor pool with a strong work ethic.”

The Martinsburg center was opened as a result of the company’s outgrowing its Kearneysville, W.Va., facility. It is the second company call center in West Virginia, joining the one in Parkersburg, which opened in 1996. The center is equipped with 112 outbound predictive dialing stations and is staffed by 160 TSRs, of which 30 are licensed insurance agents.

“The Martinsburg facility allows us to more efficiently manage our insurance teleservices operations,” said Kathleen Ritz, vice president and general manager of the TeleDirect and Insurance TeleDirect business units.

Each of the centers provides for improved workstation capacity, resulting in increased program efficiency and overall improved program performance.

ICT GROUP, an independent multinational provider of call center teleservices for sales, marketing and customer care, employs more than 300 professionals in management, sales, systems and operations and approximately 3,500 telephone sales and service representatives and research interviewers.

The company manages 28 call centers in nine states, Europe and Canada, from which it supports outbound and inbound calling for domestic and multinational corporations and institutions.

In addition to its corporate staff, ICT GROUP’s sales and marketing divisions as well as its market research division, ICT Research Services, are headquartered in Langhorne, Pa.

ICT GROUP has sales offices in Philadelphia; Chicago; Miami; Stamford, Conn.; Boston; Amherst, NY; London, England, and Dublin, Ireland. Facilities conducting international operations are located in Miami; Dublin, Ireland; London, England, and New Brunswick, Canada.

The Lancaster, Ohio, center address is: 3052 Old Columbus Road, Lancaster, Ohio 43130-8816, telephone: 614/654-0919.

The Sharonville, Ohio, center address is: 16 Triangle Office Park, Suite 1600, Cincinnati, Ohio 45246-3418, telephone: 513/771-4055.

The Martinsburg, W.Va., center address is: 131 Berkeley Plaza, Martinsburg, W.Va. 25401-3931, telephone: 304/267-5999.

Job opportunities are available at each of the above locations. To learn more about ICT GROUP, visit its web site at [http://www.ictgroup.com.][1] ICT GROUP is traded on Nasdaq:ICTG.

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

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Excite Certifies Thunderbeam

Thunderbeam [(http://www.thunderbeam.com)][1], the leading authority on children’s software, announced its selection as a Certified Merchant by Excite, Inc. (NASDAQ:XCIT).

Excite’s Certified Merchant Program features the Internet’s first Safe Shopping Guarantee. If a user’s credit card company determines that any fraudulent use of a user’s credit card occurs as a result of a transaction from an Excite Certified Merchant, Excite will reimburse the user for any fraud liability that the credit card company does not cover (within the card’s legal limits).

“Excite recognizes how important security is for consumers when shopping online and we are offering an unequaled guarantee to create a safe and comfortable online shopping experience,” said George Bell, president and CEO, Excite, Inc.

Thunderbeam joins a select group of about 25 online retailers selected for the Program at its launch, including Amazon.com, The Disney Store Online, J. Crew, Tower Records and Wal-Mart Online. To qualify for the Excite Certified Merchant Program, vendors must offer secure transaction technology and meet rigorous customer service requirements including email verification and the processing of orders within one business day. Excite Certified Merchants will respond to customer support inquiries within one business day of receipt and will notify customers of any stock outages within one business day of receiving an order.

“Excite’s inclusion of Thunderbeam is yet another feather in the cap for us. In less than a year since we launched, Thunderbeam has built a trusted brand identity for providing high-quality information and the world’s largest selection of children’s software products for purchase,” said Srikant Srinivasan, president and CEO of Thunderbeam. “We are excited about the Certified Merchant Program because it goes to the heart of the biggest concern that Internet shoppers have – security,” he added.

Thunderbeam offers busy consumers a smarter way to shop for kids’ software, where visitors can quickly find the right product, try it, and buy it. Thunderbeam offers a one-stop shop with in-depth information on over 2,500 software titles, member reviews, downloadable demos and secure online purchasing. Thunderbeam has strategic relationships with leading companies such as Netscape, ParentTime (from Time Warner Cable Programming and Procter & Gamble Productions, Inc.), Prodigy and CompuServe.

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

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Bank Brand Diminution

Banks who latch onto VISA or MasterCard branded smart cards face “serious damage” to their own brand names says a new report by CA-based Killen & Associates. Killen says in a few short years smart cards will become the bank in consumer’s mind thus increasing the association’s brand value at the expense of member’s brand. The study, ‘Non-Bank’s Smart Card Strategies: New Opportunities to Increase Sales and Profits’, suggests bank review the credit card experience and act quickly to preserve their own brand awareness.

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Card Processing Service for Adult Web Sites

International E-Commerce Network (IECN), LLC, a leading Internet commerce provider, today announced its new high- performance adult website hosting and electronic commerce ticketing service: Sentia.com(SM).

Through single-source hosting, payment processing and customer support services, Sentia.com provides total customized Internet solutions, giving adult entertainment merchants a convenient, reliable way to manage membership access, site subscription sales, online credit card processing, and technical and customer support. Utilizing best-of-breed technologies, Sentia.com’s integrated hosting, security and billing services help adult web merchants:

increase sales; reduce consumer fraud; assist in blocking minors from accessing adult content; ensure that consumers get the best possible service.

Sentia.com’s comprehensive solution includes: web site subscription sales, hosting, age verification, proprietary fraud detection and site filtering software, secure credit card processing, robust sales and usage reporting, and outstanding 24 x 7 technical and customer support.

To give adult entertainment companies the highest performing Internet solution, Sentia.com relies on SentiaNET(SM) an integrated service offering the fastest, most reliable multi-backbone Internet access, high-performance web servers, transaction processing software, and unprecedented network reliability. SentiaNET gives adult entertainment merchants a strategic advantage, allowing web sites to be accessed and transactions processed at new levels of speed and reliability. In fact, merchants who choose the Sentia.com solution will see a dramatic reduction in lost sales due to network congestion on the Internet.

Merchants also reap the benefits of Sentia RapidPay(SM), an Automated Clearing House service, tightly integrated with Sentia.com’s hosting and e-commerce services. Sentia RapidPay makes ticket sales payouts available to merchants — in cash transferred directly into their bank account faster and more efficiently than any other Internet provider.

By taking advantage of Sentia.com, adult entertainment merchants gain a professionally managed, high-performance web site, flawless end-to-end electronic commerce management, assistance in blocking minors from adult content, and outstanding customer service and technical support.

For more information about Sentia.com, call IECN’s Sales Office at 888-777-4332, or visit its web site at

With years of experience building and managing production grade Internet commerce systems for Fortune 500 companies, International E-Commerce Network, LLC. is a leader in the electronic commerce industry, offering world wide web site membership, payment processing and information systems management services for the adult entertainment, gaming and interactive content industries.

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Students Get Top Card Use Grades

VISA released a study yesterday showing 90% of college students consider themselves good money managers. The ‘VISA Scholars & Cents’ survey of 251 students also showed that 56% of students pay credit card balances in full each month and most reserve credit card use for high-ticket items such as travel and car expenses. The study, conducted by CT-based NFO Research between July 22 and July 27, also revealed that 67% rely on money they earn during the school year. The study’s results comes on the heels of recent press articles presenting reams of anecdotal evidence of students struggling under a mound of credit card debt.

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August Sales Sluggish

Consumers maintained a moderate spending pace in August according to data released yesterday by TeleCheck Services Inc. August retail sales are normally fueled by back-to-school purchases but it appears this seasonal activity is extended into September for 1997. TeleCheck noted 15-day UPS strike in August may have negatively affected retail inventories and sales.. TeleCheck reported a 2.5% national increase for August with the northeast and southeast posting the biggest gains of 4.3%.

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