Affinity Mobile Lands a New CEO

Dallas-based Affinity Mobile has landed John Carney, former SVP/Sales and Operations for T- Mobile USA, as its new CEO .He will lead strategic efforts to drive rapid adoption of their Mobile Application Delivery Enablement (MADE) platform that enables true “mWallet,” “mTransfer” and “mPayments” capabilities. During his ten years with T-Mobile, Carney launched prepaid phone service and drove their highly successful retail and dealer distribution strategy that ultimately led to a distribution organization that supported 25,000 retail outlets and over $14 billion in annual revenue. Before T-Mobile, Carney spent 10 years with telecommunications companies MCI and Mid-com Communications. Affinity Mobile enables financial mobility in everyday applications through the MADE platform.

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Holiday Budget Hangover to Impact Jan Spending

A monthly barometer has found that 24% of consumers are expecting to scale back their spending in January, compared to 11% in December. Also, for the first time since June, only 49% expect to have money left over after paying their monthly bills. According to the Discover “U.S. Spending Monitor” the budget hangover from the holidays will likely be the driver of the January decline. The “Monitor” showed a reading of 90.5 for December, compared to 93.1 for the prior month. Discover also found that only 27% of consumers rate current economic conditions as good or excellent, a new low. At the same time, consumers rating the economy as poor rose to 36%, a new high. The survey reflects responses from 12,500 randomly sampled consumers contacted during December.

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Asta Funding Names a New COO

NJ-based collections specialist Asta Funding has named Bill Williams to the newly created position of COO and the promotion of Mary Curtin to the position of SVP. Prior to joining Asta Funding, Williams spent 40 years in finance company operations. He spent the last eight years as the CEO of Popular, Inc.’s North American finance company operations. Before his time with Popular, he was the Chief Operating Officer of BankAmerica’s consumer finance company. Williams’ responsibilities include outsourced servicing activities, the acquisition and sale of portfolios, and certain support functions — human resources, portfolio analysis, and process management. Curtin has spent the last seven years in the capacity of VP of Operations. In her new role she will now be involved in the review and acquisition of new portfolios, while continuing to oversee the internal collection activities, and the management of the associated supporting departments. Prior to joining Asta Funding, she spent 10 years in analytical and operational capacities within the financial industry. Asta Funding is a consumer receivable asset management company that specializes in the purchase, management and liquidation of performing and non-performing consumer receivables.

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Affinion Group Acquires a $50MM Revenue Stream

CT-based affinity marketer Affinion Group reports it has acquired a base of approximately half a million members and the associated fee revenue stream, valued at $50 million, from a U.S.-based financial institution. The acquired members are participating in credit card registration programs designed to protect, assist and reimburse members whenever a registered card is lost or stolen. With the anticipated benefits from this acquisition, Affinion is projecting its 2008 Adjusted EBITDA to be within the range of $305 – $315 million. This projected range exceeds the company’s previously announced targeted annual growth rate of between 6-8% in Adjusted EBITDA for 2008. Affinion has financed this purchase through a combination of cash on hand and borrowings from its revolving credit facility. Affinion made four prepayments totaling $100 million in 2007 against the balance of its term loan. To date, Affinion has made nine voluntary prepayments totaling $205 million, or approximately 24% of the original term loan, and the company continues to be in full compliance with all of its banking covenants.

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Pulaski Unloads a New Crop of Super Prime Cards

Consistent with past practices, AR-based Pulaski Bank and Trust Company has unloaded a new batch of super prime credit cardholders outside its local footprint. The issuer received 29,000 applications and increased receivable balances by $10.9 million last year, reaching $58.8 million in outstanding balances as of December 31st. In a deal, which closed last week, Pulaski sold $30.4 million in credit card receivables for a 22.7% premium. During 2007, the portfolio experienced losses of 1.46% of outstanding balances, had an average FICO score of 726, and had loans past due 30 days or more of only 0.82% in the fourth quarter. Since 1997, Pulaski has periodically sold credit card receivables at significant premiums, and replenished balances over time. The Company anticipates no significant change in its current national credit card market origination operations during 2008.

PULASKI PORTFOLIO HISTORICAL
1997 2002 2005 2008
Receivables Sold $18.8mm $34.0mm $34.0mm $30.4mm
Premium 20.0% 18.8% 17.4% 22.7%
Source: Pulaski Bank

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CPI Card Group Hires a Smart Card Sales Exec

CO-based CPI Card Group has hired Michelle Lehouck, formerly with STMicroelectronics, as Product Development Manager for Smart Cards — North America. At STMicroelectronics, she most recently held the position of Sales & Business Development Manager for the North American region. Lehouck’s focus will be on assisting United States and Canadian customers throughout the smart card implementation process. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a BA in English.

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GEMALTO E-ID CARDS

Gemalto will be providing 10 million “smart” electronic ID cards to
Yemen citizens for full-proof identity verification of voters in the 2009
Parliamentary elections. Peripheral services Gemalto will be overseeing
include enrollment processes, biometric national registry, maintenance,
local support, training and integration services for the cards.
Approximately the size of a credit card, the ID will provide the user’s
name, address, digital photograph and fingerprints for all whom are older
than 16 years of age. Gemalto provides digital security solutions for
merchants and organizations around the world, had a 2006 annual revenue
of EUR 1.7 billion, operations in 40 countries and employs nearly 10,000.

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Best Usability on Citi, BofA and Wells Web Sites

A new survey has found that Citibank, Bank of America and Wells Fargo had the highest usability grades with their websites. Chicago-based Vox says overall, banks have phased-out institutional images and other minor elements to focus more on selling products, especially credit cards. But, few banks scored consistently well in usability. The Company’s “Fourth Quarter 2007 Banking Mind Model” found that a few notable usability improvements on several bank sites including page scaling (giving customers control over text and image size); search function (adding misspelling recognition and advanced search) and forms error messages (designing clear, contextual error messages). Vox says banks realize that 91% of online customers who’ve had a bad experience on a self-service website will not return.

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SMB PERSPECTIVES

There are now 2.0 payment cards per adult in western Europe with ten countries showing more than one debit card per adult. The U.K. leads the region with 3.2 payments cards per adult, compared to 4.5 payments cards per adult in the U.S. The U.K. is the only western Europe country where there is more than one credit card per adult. However, France, Greece and Ireland are the only countries besides the U.K. in which credit cards outnumber debit cards. According to a new report from London-based Retail Banking Research, there are 787 million payment cards in issue in western Europe. This is an increase of 66 million (9.2%) since 2004. In the majority of countries, there are more debit cards than credit cards but in only five countries (Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey) do debit cards account for more than three fifths of the market. RBR notes that in most countries credit cards are driving growth. The number of such cards in Italy rose by 64% and in Norway by 32%. In a number of countries, charge cards are being reissued as credit cards.

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GE Money Names a New Global Marketing Exec

GE Money has promoted Vincenzo Picone, previously SVP for Strategy, to SVP of Global Marketing. As SVP for Strategy, he has been responsible for strategic planning and global growth initiatives, and led efforts to transform its marketing capabilities. He will retain the Strategy responsibilities. Previous to joining GE Money, Picone served as CEO of Palmera Group SpA, a leading Italian consumer goods company and previously held senior marketing, branding and strategic consulting roles with Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and McKinsey & Co. He earned an undergraduate degree in Marketing from the European Business School in Paris, and an MS in Management from the Sloan School at Stanford.

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SHANGDONG AIRLINES & UATP

Shangdong Airlines has joined the UATP Merchant Network, allowing
for the acceptance of all UATP cards. This development is in response
to client demand to use UATP as a payment method and Shangdong subsequently sees this agreement as a business strategy to grow market
share. The airline provides domestic and international flights,
international
cargo services, hotel services and operates more than 200 routes
throughout the world while UATP accounts are accepted as a form of
payment for corporate business travel by airlines and travel agencies
worldwide.

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COMMERCIAL BANK OF CEYLON

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon will be implementing a software upgrade
by mid-2008 for its computer and ATM networks in the hopes of reducing
hardware costs and improving operations. Providing the upgrades, Fiserv
CBS Worldwide has designed the software to allow for the centralized
tracking and control of the bank’s ATM networks at its 161 branches across
Sri Lanka and a reduction in support costs.

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