ONE-SOURCE USA

Mumbai-based ICICI Group’s OneSource subsidiary is targeting large and mid-sized banking, insurance and other financial services companies to offer outsourced contact center and transaction processing operations offshore. Since 1998, the company has been processing transactions for US and UK-based companies at its offshore contact center and transaction processing facilities in Bangalore and Mumbai.
The company is handling call and transaction volumes as high as 400,000 per month and features a highly skilled, low cost workforce and sophisticated technological base. ICICI Group has committed $40 million in funding to the new venture. Susheel Kurien has been named President of ICICI OneSource’s US operations.

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Check Volume

Revised check volume data released by the Federal Reserve System this week has taken the payments industry by surprise. The FRS lowered its estimate of the number and value of checks written by American consumers, businesses and government agencies in 2000, suggesting check use may have peaked in the mid-1990s. The revised annual check volume in 2000 is 42.5 billion checks valued at $39.3 trillion compared to a previous estimate of nearly 50 billion checks, valued at $47.7 trillion. In 1995, a peak of 49.5 billion checks was reached, while the volume in 1979 was 32.8 billion checks. Check use as a percentage of retail noncash payments, which includes credit card, debit card, automated clearinghouse payments and other electronic payments, declined from 85.7% in 1979 to 77.1% in 1995 to 59.5% in 2000. The Federal Reserve System was initially released in November of last year. Based on the initial study, some industry consultants/newsletters projected a checkwriting peak in 2005.

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Gen X & Y

The Certified Financial Planner Board has released its “2002 Consumer Survey” which shows that financial goals of people ages 20-39 have shifted toward managing and reducing debt and away from saving for education, travel, housing and retirement. Almost half of this group (47% vs. 39% in 1999) list debt reduction/management as a current financial goal. This group also expressed diminishing interest in home purchase/renovation (37% vs. 42% in 1999), vacation/travel (33% vs. 40% in 1999) and retirement planning (72% vs. 77% in 1999). The CFP expressed concerns that credit card debt is a growing problem for Americans in their 20s and 30s, and they believe millions of college-age consumers are especially vulnerable.

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ARGUS DEAL

Abacus Financial Management Systems Limited has placed its first significant purchase order for 320 “Argus” bill validators to be installed as part of the Abacus cash management system in a major U.K. retailer.
AFM Systems Limited is a UK-based manufacturer and product development company, providing a range of cash and coin management systems for the retail market. The company is a partnership between James Redding and US-based Global Payment Technologies. The unidentified U.K. retailer will deploy the Abacus systems in 57 of its locations. The installation is expected to be completed by December.

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CELLBUCKS EXPANDS

Ontario-based CellBucks has teamed with Ovations Food Services to offer its micropayment system to baseball fans attending the Joseph P. Riley Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina. The new program enables Charleston Riverdogs fans to order and pay for food and beverages from their cell phones and have it all delivered right to their seats. The CellBucks payment system is compatible with any type of cell phone on any cellular service provider’s network. Users can registerfor the service by going online to the CellBucks Web site or by phone call. CellBucks will accept VISA, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. Members will instantly be given a personal pass code for immediate use of the CellBucks service. Last week, CellBucks and Ovations Food Services sealed their first deal with the Bowie Baysox at Prince George’s Stadium in Maryland.

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B-CARD

Grupo Financiero Banamex is projecting it will issuer more than 200,000 smart cards by the end of 2002. El Economista says the new “B-Card” will be issued to customers with a minimum income of 5,000 pesos. Grupo Financiero Banamex says it is the first Mexican bank to begin the migration from magnetic stripe cards to smart cards.

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