Offshore Outsourcing to Grow Significantly in the Fourth Quarter

Outsourcing activity among US financial services companies to offshore areas, such as India, will grow by as much as 20% in the 4th quarter according to a new survey. ICICI OneSource and A.T. Kearney estimated that US banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, mutual funds and other financial services firms will relocate eight percent of their workforce offshore, representing more than 500,000 jobs, over the next five years. These relocations are expected to reduce annual operating costs by more than $30 billion. ICICI OneSource is one of the largest third-party BPO services companies in India, with offshore facilities in Mumbai and Bangalore and international business development offices in New York and London.

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First Data & Concord Merger Produces Speculation & Concerns

The merger between First Data and Concord EFS continues to generate speculation that regulators will require some changes in the deal. Last week, rumors surfaced that First Data will unload its majority ownership in the NYCE network to appease government regulators. FDC will not confirm or deny the rumors, but insists that it does not believe any changes in the business of either First Data or Concord in connection with the merger are necessary or appropriate. Meanwhile, a coalition of leading Hispanic organizations has informed the U.S. Department of Justice of its concerns over the FDC-Concord merger. The group made up of the Hispanic Alliance for Progress, the Mexican American Grocers Association, the Latino Coalition and the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans, says it believes the merger will adversely affect competition and result in higher prices and fewer services in numerous payment systems markets. They say the merger will be particularly harmful to the millions of Latinos in the USA without traditional banking relationships. They say unbanked consumers pay supra-competitive prices for money transfers because First Data/Western Union dominates the remittance market. First Data has over 80% of the market in many segments and they say it has been able to increase prices without restraint in the remittance market. The group also believes the First Data-Concord merger threatens innovation in the remittance market. For the past two years, Concord’s STAR has been developing an ATM- to-ATM based remittance product which offers significantly lower prices for wiring money.

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MINI VISA

United Overseas Bank Ltd. has launched a “VISA Mini” credit card and a “VISA Infinite” credit card. Applicants for the miniature VISA card are entered into a contest to win a “MINI” automobile. Applicants receive 10 chances to win when they apply, and one extra chance with each $50 outstanding on the statement. UOB is giving away a “MINI One” or “MINI Cooper S.” The bank is also offering various electronic gadgets for referrals. UOB says it expects to issue 100,000 “VISA Mini” cards by next September. Meanwhile, UOB has launched its exclusive “VISA Infinite” credit card. Reportedly, UOB is targeting 4,000 of Singapore’s affluent for the card. UOB also indicated it will roll-out “VISA Infinite” cards in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand over the next two quarters.

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New Coles Myer’s Source MasterCard Sparks Lawsuit

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against MasterCard over the new “Coles Myer’s Source MasterCard” to be launched in October. CBA insists that exclusivity clauses in its contract with MasterCard prohibit the network from working with another retailer in a co-branding relationship. CBA currently issues a Woolworths MasterCard. GE Capital will issue the new “Coles Myer’s Source MasterCard.” CBA filed the action in NSW Supreme Court. GE Consumer Finance recently applied for a specialist banking license in Australia and is set to launch private label cards with Harvey Norman, Clive Peters, and Freedom very soon.

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Smart Debit Card for Water Access Launched

Cebu, an island in the middle group of the Philippine archipelago, has launched the first solar powered, prepaid municipal water distribution system that utilizes a smart card. The “AquaCard” and “AquaMeter” system by WorldWater Corp enables the community to offer clean, reliable drinking water to residents, who pay for water via a debit card similar to a prepaid phone card. The “AquaCard” is inserted into the “AquaMeter” solar pumping station and the requested number of liters of water is dispensed and the card is debited. A microchip on the card reads when it needs to be recharged by the customer at the community bank. The deal between the municipality and WorldWater runs for 10 years.

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SureFire Commerce Becomes Terra Payments

Montreal-based SureFire Commerce has received the blessing of its shareholders to change its name to Terra Payments Inc.
The vote for the name change took place at the company’s annual and special shareholders’ meeting held in Montreal and is
intended to better reflect its diverse and expanding role as an international payments company. Shareholders also elected Michelle Cormier to the Board of Directors, replacing Markus Braun, a former director appointed by ebs Holding AG. Ms. Cormier was a director of the Corporation
from April 2002 until March 2003. Ms. Cormier is currently EVP/CFO of TNG Capital Inc., a privately held investment company and prior to January 2001, was VP/CFO of Repap Enterprises Inc. Messrs Tommy Boman, Mitchell Garber, Brahm Gelfand, Joel Leonoff,
Klaus Rehnig and Steve Shaper were also re-appointed to the board.

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Metris Cuts More Jobs, Aiming for Profitability

Metris Companies confirmed Thursday afternoon that it is cutting 25% of its senior management team at a cost of $2.5 million. The sub-prime issuer says the reduction in employees is due to the fact that its credit card portfolio is 15-20% smaller and that the company recently sold off its enhancement services business. Approximately 65 positions will be cut, mostly in the Minnetonka headquarters. Metris will employ approximately 3,000 employees following the reductions. According to CardData, Metris/Direct Merchants Credit Card Bank had $10.1 billion in outstandings at mid-year, compared to $11.7 billion for 2Q/02. The number of active accounts dropped from 4.8 million to 3.0 million over the same period.

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