NY-based Solspark Inc., formerly netgen inc., announced Tuesday the availability of a turn-key teen payment platform that allows banks to access the teen market by issuing stored value payment mechanisms. The Solspark payment platform enables parents to place specific merchant category and spending controls on the teen account. The payment platform is part of Solspark’s proprietary permissions-based payment technology that integrates with all existing payment platforms. Solspark also announced yesterday the formation of its Senior Advisory Board which includes the following participants, among others: Pete Hart, former CEO of MasterCard and Advanta; Jeffrey Chittenden, formerly EVP at First USA Bank, and Bill Stewart, former CEO of eVISA and former EVP at VISA.Details
Optimal Robotics Corp. offers consumers a new way to simplify their lives with the installation of the first U-Scan Express self-checkout system at one of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Company of Canada Limited’s (A&P) largest operations, a Dominion store located at Kennedy Road and Highway 401 in Scarborough, Ontario.
The U-Scan Express is a high-speed alternative to the traditional checkout line that allows customers to act as their own cashiers — scanning, bagging and paying for their items with limited or no assistance from store personnel.
“Through this technology, Optimal Robotics is changing the way people pay for groceries and other retail goods in North America,” said Henry Karp, President and COO of Optimal Robotics. “The unit operates with a touch screen, visual cues and voice prompts to guide shoppers through the transaction quickly, simply and accurately. The customer scans the goods, bags them and pays with a credit or debit card or cash, as if it were a vending machine.”
Founded in 1991 and headquartered in Montreal, Optimal Robotics has become the leading provider of self-checkout systems for express lanes in supermarket chains and superstore retailers in North America. The company entered the U.S. market in 1995 with the conviction that the popularity of ATMs and kiosks would eventually reach grocery retail. Today, the self- checkout market is booming, with the market in the U.S. alone estimated at $2 – 3 billion. To date, Optimal has over 2,400 self-serve terminals in over 30 U.S. states.
The U-Scan Express system takes up only 75% of the space occupied by standard checkout lanes and like ATMs, U-Scan provides shoppers with a self- service option that increases convenience and control.
“We are delighted to be working with Optimal on this Canadian test installation,” said Bill Sheine, spokesperson for A&P. “We believe that this self-checkout system (known as “Express Yourself” at A&P/Dominion) will provide a speedier alternative to traditional express lanes. This initiative complements today’s busy lifestyles and consumers’ comfort with self-service offering a fast, easy, efficient way to pay for goods while allowing shoppers to take charge of their own transactions.”
“The system has proven successful in the U.S. and we are excited to offer our shoppers this latest innovation in customer service and technology.”
The Great Atlantic and Pacific Company of Canada Limited operates 239 corporate and franchised food stores in Ontario including A&P, Dominion, Ultra Food & Drug and Food Basics.
Optimal Robotics Corp. is the leading provider of self-checkout systems in supermarkets and supercentres throughout the United States. The company’s principal product is U-Scan(R) Express, an automated self-checkout system which enables shoppers to scan, bag and pay for their purchases with limited or no assistance from store personnel. The U-Scan Express system has become the industry standard in North America and processed over 45 million customer transactions in 1999. U-Scan Express is designed to reduce retailer checkout costs, increase shoppers’ convenience and provide an ATM-like checkout experience. For more information, visit Optimal Robotics’ Web site at .Details
 While First Union continues to shop its portfolio on the market, second quarter results gathered by CardData show a $170 million drop in receivables and a reduction in active accounts by nearly 200,000. Wells Fargo Card Services’ portfolio was essentially flat for 2Q/00. Meanwhile Wachovia continues to digest its purchase of the Partners First portfolio showing a $400 million decrease in receivables between 1Q/00 and 2Q/00.
First Union Wells Fargo Wachovia
RECV: $5,630,654,051 $5,527,535,308 $7,787,803,270
Q VOL: $1,813,978,866 $2,162,003,878 $2,396,976,113
ACCTS: 3,279,000 4,568,998 7,769,274
ACTIVES: 1,767,559 2,832,425 2,763,510
CARDS: 3,840,876 6,000,074 10,377,321
ND- not disclosed
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)
Bank Plus Corporation and its subsidiaries, which include Fidelity Federal Bank, FSB reported earnings from continuing operations of $6.0 million, or $0.31 per diluted share, for the second quarter of 2000 and $26.7 million, or $1.37 per diluted share, for the six months ended June 30, 2000. Excluding net gains on sales of branches of $4.7 million for the second quarter and $24.3 million for the six month period, net income from continuing operations was $1.3 million for the second quarter of 2000 and $2.4 million for the six months ended June 30, 2000. Net income from continuing operations was $10.8 million, or $0.54 per diluted share, for the second quarter of 1999, and $16.1 million, or $0.81 per diluted share, for the six months ended June 30, 1999.
The Company also reported that the Board of Directors has adopted a plan to dispose of its remaining credit card operations. As a result, the carrying values of the remaining credit card portfolios have been reduced to their estimated sales values and the credit card operations are now reported as discontinued operations in the Company’s financial statements. Income from discontinued operations was $0.1 million in the second quarter of 2000 and loss from discontinued operations was $7.3 million for first six months of 2000, as compared to losses of $26.4 million and $29.7 million for the corresponding periods in the prior year. Loss on disposal of discontinued operations was $27.9 million for the second quarter of 2000 and $60.3 million for the six months ended June 30, 2000.
The Company reported overall losses of $21.8 million or $1.12 per diluted share for the second quarter of 2000 and $41.0 million, or $2.11 per diluted share, for the six months ended June 30, 2000.
Mark K. Mason, President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “I am pleased to report that in the first half of the year we have implemented all of the strategic elements of our 2000 business plan, including the completion of our planned deposit sales, the adoption and execution of a plan of disposal of the credit card operations, and the resolution of the ADC cardholder litigation. As a result of these actions the Company anticipates a return to overall profitability in the second half of this year and is positioned to consider the feasibility of a sale in the near term.”
SECOND QUARTER 2000 RESULTS
Primarily as a result of deposit sales, repayments of borrowings and correspondingly lower levels of interest earning assets, net interest income decreased to $14.5 million in the second quarter of 2000 as compared to $16.4 million in the first quarter of 2000 and $18.5 million in the second quarter of 1999. The impact of the reduction in interest earnings assets was partially offset by improvements in the interest margin. While increases in market interest rates have caused the Bank’s deposit costs to increase since the 1999 second quarter, increases in the yield on assets and decreases in borrowings, which have higher costs than deposits, have resulted in an increase in the net yield on interest earning assets. The increased yield on assets was the result of the repricing of the Bank’s primarily adjustable rate mortgage portfolio and improvements in the yield on its investment portfolio due to lower prepayments.
Despite increasing deposit costs, the Company’s overall costs of funds have risen more slowly than the Federal Home Loan Bank (“FHLB”) Eleventh District Cost of Funds Index (“COFI”) to which the majority of the Company’s mortgage loan portfolio is indexed. The Bank’s overall cost of funds was 4.84% for the month of June 2000 and 4.58% for the month June 1999, while COFI was 5.36% and 4.50% for the corresponding periods.
The negative provision for loan losses in the second quarter of 2000 and the first two quarters of 1999 represents reduced estimates of future loan losses and net recoveries of specific valuation reserves resulting from improvements in the asset quality of the Bank’s mortgage loan portfolio.
Excluding net gains on sales of branches, net noninterest income was $3.4 million for the second quarter of 2000 as compared to $3.6 million for the first quarter of 2000 and $3.0 million for the second quarter of 1999. In the second quarter of 1999, noninterest income was negatively impacted by $0.4 million of fees incurred in the prepayment of certain FHLB advances. Increased sales of higher margin products resulted in a 4% increase in fee income from the sale of investment products in the second quarter of 2000 as compared to the second quarter of 1999 in spite of an 18% decrease in the number of branches. On a per branch basis, fee income from the sale of investment products increased 27% in the second quarter of 2000 as compared to the second quarter of 1999.
Operating expenses for the second quarter of 2000 were $1.6 million or 9.5% higher than the second quarter of 1999. This increase is due primarily to increased compensation costs, costs of the Major Loan Division which began operations in the fourth quarter of 1999, and higher FDIC insurance costs offset by lower information systems expenses. Increased compensation costs are primarily due to compensation increases to retain quality personnel in a highly competitive employment market. The Company’s core information systems were converted to a new service bureau based system in the second quarter resulting in a significant decrease in data processing costs.
The Company’s efficiency ratio has been adversely impacted by a number of factors related to its current turnaround status and its existing mortgage loan portfolio. These include higher FDIC insurance premiums, low capital levels, exclusive reliance on deposit funding, and a low yielding multifamily loan portfolio. Low capital levels cause the Company to borrow incrementally more to fund the assets. Deposit funding, while generally less expensive than borrowing, requires higher operating expenses. As a result of the Company’s lack of significant new loan originations since the early 1990’s, the loan portfolio today is still largely comprised of adjustable rate multifamily loans originated in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. These loans were originated at margins that produce yields that are approximately 60 basis points below similar loans in today’s market. On a pro forma basis, adjusting for these items, the Company anticipates that its efficiency ratio will fall within the range of peer institutions in future periods.
Asset quality in the mortgage loan portfolio continues to be favorable with delinquencies at June 30, 2000 of 0.42% for the overall portfolio and 0.10% for the multifamily portfolio, compared to levels of 0.55% and 0.16%, respectively, as of March 31, 2000. Classified loans and nonperforming assets were $49.1 million and $5.3 million at June 30, 2000 as compared to $51.5 million and $7.2 million at March 31, 2000, respectively.
The losses from discontinued operations in the first quarter of 2000 and in the first two quarters of 1999 were primarily due to high provisions for estimated loan losses.
The loss on disposal of discontinued operations represents the valuation loss recorded by the Company to reduce the carrying values of the MMG Direct, Inc. (“MMG”), American Direct Credit, Inc. (“ADC”) and First Alliance Mortgage Company (“FAMCO”) portfolios to their estimated sales values and $3.0 million of charges related to the future termination of a third party servicing contract and the completed sale of the Company’s credit card servicing center in Beaverton, Oregon. The valuation loss related to the MMG portfolio was recorded in the first quarter of 2000 while the valuation losses related to the ADC and FAMCO portfolios were recorded in the second quarter of 2000.
Until the disposal of the credit card portfolios has been completed, the Company’s overall results of operations will continue to include the results of these discontinued operations and any changes in the anticipated proceeds from the disposal of the credit card portfolios.
As of June 30, 2000 total outstanding balances in Fidelity’s credit card portfolio were $87.4 million, comprising $74.4 million in the ADC portfolio and $13.0 million in the FAMCO real estate secured portfolio. Total delinquencies in the ADC and FAMCO portfolios were 15.8% and 20.3% at June 30, 2000 compared to 15.0% and 18.8% at March 31, 2000, respectively. The buyer of the credit card servicing center and the MMG portfolio is now servicing the ADC portfolio.
As a result of the second quarter net loss the Bank is categorized as “adequately capitalized” as of June 30, 2000 for regulatory capital purposes as compared to “well capitalized” as of March 31, 2000. The Company anticipates becoming “well capitalized” again in 2001 through earnings and balance sheet management. Common stockholders’ equity was $55.6 million at June 30, 2000 with a tangible book value per common share outstanding of $2.27.
SENIOR NOTE DEBT SERVICE
During the quarter, the Company made its scheduled interest payment on its Senior Notes. The liquidity for interest payments in the near term is expected to be provided by preferred stock dividends from the Bank and currently projected liquidity at the holding company. The Bank has been authorized by the OTS to make payment of dividends on the Bank’s preferred stock so long as the Bank remains at least adequately capitalized for regulatory purposes. This authorization from the OTS does not constrain the OTS from restricting future dividend payments based on safety and soundness considerations or future examination findings, and no assurance can therefore be given that the OTS will permit future dividend payments by Fidelity to Bank Plus. The Bank has received no indication from the OTS that it will object to the continued payment of preferred dividends.
Bank Plus Corporation is the holding company for Fidelity Federal Bank, FSB, which offers a broad range of consumer financial services, including demand and time deposits and mortgage loans. In addition, through its affiliate Gateway Investment Services, Inc., a NASD-registered broker/dealer, Fidelity provides customers of the Bank with investment products, including mutual funds, annuities and insurance. Fidelity operates through 30 full-service branches, 29 of which are located in Los Angeles and Orange counties in Southern California.
For more details on Bank Plus’ 2Q/00 results visit CardData ([www.carddata.com])
The amount of wireless phone charges billed to the ‘American Express Corporate Card’ is increasing by approximately 30% year-over-year. AmEx says its internal research indicates that 25% of its corporate cardholders are using their cards to pay for their telecom expenses to reduce administrative burden of processing separate invoices. AmEx said a recent poll of 600 U.S. business travelers found that wireless phones are now carried by 53% of corporate travelers, a 28% jump over last year. The survey also revealed that 59% of all calls on the road are now made using wireless phones, up two percentage points from last year, while the use of pay phones is sharply decreasing, down to 7.6% from 11% a year ago. Internet and email access account for 8% of on-the-road telecom charges.Details
Trintech Group PLC, a leading provider of secure electronic payment infrastructure solutions and Planet Payment, a leading provider of global multi-currency Internet payment solutions, announced an agreement to develop and deploy a secure mobile commerce payment solution to banks, eMerchants and technology companies worldwide.
The integration of Trintech’s PayWare eIssuer and mAccess server technology is the second phase in an ongoing strategic alliance agreement between the two companies that enables Planet Payment to substantially expand its service offerings into mobile commerce with a complete payment infrastructure solution for eMerchants, financial institutions, telecommunication companies and technology companies, including ASPs, CSPs and wireless application service providers. Planet Payment enables its partners to offer their customers secure shopping online using their mobile phones while allowing its merchants to accept credit card payments in almost any currency. Planet Payment intends to fully integrate mAccess and eIssuer with its own multi-currency payment services to facilitate global mCommerce among host providers, consumers, merchants and other Planet Payment third parties.
Merrill Lynch, in a recent report, estimates that there were 472 million wireless subscribers worldwide at the end of 1999 and expects this total to grow to 1.5 billion users by 2003. With the addition of this mobile commerce functionality, Planet Payment further strengthens its position in the industry as a leading provider of multi-currency payment solutions for global e-commerce, whether the transaction happens online through a personal computer, mobile telephony or other wireless Internet access devices.
Consumers wishing to shop online using their mobile phones or other handheld devices through Planet Payment first set up a virtual payment profile through their Internet portal, local access provider or financial services institution, which securely stores the information so it can be quickly accessed for a wireless e-commerce transaction. The Trintech products facilitating the transaction will be located in Planet Payment’s facility. Planet Payment aims to expand upon its role as a trusted service provider by offering mobile commerce services to any and all interested parties.
“With this venture we will enable mobile phone users anywhere who wish to shop online using the convenience of their wireless devices to do so – securely, confidently and with the payment vehicle of their choice. This relationship with Trintech continues our stated strategy to become the global leader in providing multi-currency Internet payment solutions to merchants, technology companies and financial institutions,” says Philip Beck, CEO of Planet Payment. “We believe that Trintech has clearly demonstrated its leadership position in eCommerce and now mCommerce with its eIssuer and mAccess products. We plan to combine our multi-currency Internet skills with the unrivalled ePayment domain expertise of Trintech to provide our customers with a powerful mCommerce product suite.”
“We are absolutely committed to providing ePayment solutions that facilitate the rising tide of mCommerce,” says John McGuire, CEO of Trintech. “By partnering with a market leader like Planet Payment, we can further reach wireless financial services. This allows banks to enjoy the substantial synergies that accrue from the combination of our joint range of wireless products.”
About PayWare mAccess
PayWare mAccess is a modular, server-based mCommerce payment solution that enables card issuing banks, portals/ASPs, content converters and wireless network operators to securely process card payment transactions from a variety of wireless devices, including cell phones, PDAs and set-top boxes. When deployed in conjunction with a server-based consumer payment technology, such as Trintech’s PayWare eIssuer, wireless users benefit greatly from enhanced security and “one touch” form fill of mobile commerce merchant payment pages.
About Planet Payment
Planet Payment ([www.planetpayment.com]) is a global leader in providing multi-currency Internet payment solutions to merchants, technology companies and financial institutions worldwide. Planet Payment’s affordable solution enables Internet merchants to securely accept Visa(R), MasterCard(R), American Express(R) and other major debit and credit cards in a secure, real time environment, 24 hours a day and in over 140 currencies – whether the buyer is using a personal computer, mobile telephone, or other wireless device. The Planet Payment Gateway, powered by Authorize.Net, ([www.authorize.net]) is compatible with over 100 of the leading shopping cart technologies. Planet Payment can be contacted in the U.S. at 950 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022 (Tel: 212/980-5100). Planet Payment can be reached on the Web at [http://www.planetpayment.com]. Email correspondence should be sent to email@example.com.
Trintech Group PLC is a leading provider of secure electronic payment infrastructure solutions for real world, Internet and wireless transactions. The company, which was founded in 1987, offers a complete range of payment software products for credit, debit, commercial and procurement card applications. Trintech’s secure product range is deployed in over 35 countries worldwide and cover the payment requirements of consumers, card issuing banks, merchant acquiring institutions, merchants, eMerchants, telcos, wireless operators, ISPs/CSPs, Portals and large corporations. Trintech’s range of scalable, open systems architecture solutions for UNIX(R) and Windows NT(TM) platforms covers consumer, merchant and financial institution requirements for all card-based payments, including e-commerce and the emerging world of mobile commerce. Trintech can be contacted in the U.S. at 2755 Campus Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403 (Tel: 650/227-7000) and in Ireland at Trintech Building, South County Business Park, Leopardstown, Dublin 18 (Tel: 353-1-207-4000). Trintech can be reached on the Web at [http://www.trintech.com]. Investor information can be found at [www.trintech.com/investor].
Palm Beach, FL-based ilife.com/bankrate.com reported yesterday it is running out of cash quickly but its burn rate is cooling. As of June 30, the publicly-traded infomediary had $7.5 million in cash available after posting a second quarter loss of $3.3 million. However in its path-to-survivability initiative, bankrate.com was able to unload its online insurance business for $4.3 million cash in mid-July. Bankrate was losing about $600,000 per month operating the Pivot online insurance service. The Pivot sale will raise Bankrate’s cash on-hand to more than $11 million and should reduce its quarterly losses to about $1.5 million. Barrons projected ilife.com/bankrate.com would run out-of-cash by year’s end. However the firm should be able to continue operations for at least another twelve months. Bankrate said yesterday that its cost reduction efforts have been broad-based across the company which have included elimination of its broadcast group, significant reductions in marketing and PR, and reductions in force that bring the firm back to pre-IPO staffing levels. Ilife.com went public in May 1999 as Intelligent Life Corp. trading as high as $15 per share. The firm’s stock price has been hovering around $1 per share this summer. (CF Library 5/14/99).Details
Globeset, the leading global supplier of secure ePayments infrastructure services and products, has named Jonathan Wineberg as senior vice president, Development.
In his new role, Wineberg will lead Globeset’s worldwide development of eCommerce infrastructure solutions, which provide a globally consistent and secure connection — anytime, anywhere — among financial services providers, electronic exchanges, buyers and sellers. He will also oversee Globeset’s application services area which hosts both Globeset and third-party software for clients.
Wineberg previously served as senior vice president of engineering and product development for EIS International, Inc., a provider of telephony-based contact center technology based in Herndon, Va.
“Jonathan has extensive experience in both software development and product management and will play a key role in helping us expand and enhance our family of eCommerce products,” said Tony Reed, Globeset’s chief operating officer.
The originator and co-author of four patent applications, Wineberg holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Akron, Ohio, and has completed graduate work at Johns Hopkins and Syracuse universities. He also is a member of IEEE and the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
Globeset is the leading global supplier of secure ePayments infrastructure services and products for buyers, sellers and financial services providers. The company’s ePayments infrastructure provides a globally consistent and secure connection — anytime, anywhere — among financial services providers, electronic exchanges, buyers and sellers. This infrastructure simplifies process flows and reduces costs associated with ePayments.
Globeset delivers services and products directly and through resellers and system integration partners that supply financial services providers, corporations and electronic marketplaces. Partners and customers are supported with application hosting services, consulting, education, customization, maintenance and support. The company’s ePayment services and products include personal and enterprise commerce agents, banking applications and corporate applications. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at: [http://www.globeset.com].
MasterCard International announced this week it has selected Seattle-based Avenue A and Luminant Worldwide as its online marketing partners. Avenue A recently formed an alliance with Luminant Worldwide. The alliance brings together Avenue A and its subsidiary, iballs, with Luminant and MasterCard. iballs will employ its fully customizable media services and Avenue A’s proprietary technology to optimize the results of MasterCard’s online marketing to their U.S. customers. These services include banner advertising, newsletter sponsorship and opt-in email list management. The campaign will focus on: increasing traffic to MasterCard’s Small Business Connections site; acquiring qualified new members to MasterCard Exclusives Online; and the execution and analysis of seasonal promotions and strategic partnerships. Avenue A currently has 109 ad clients.Details
! Capital One continues to dominate credit card banner advertising on the Internet. For the week of July 17-23, Cap One captured three of the top ten slots in the top banner ads viewed at-home. However NextCard delivered nearly 72 million banner ad impressions during the week reaching 17.8% of the total Internet audience. According to Nielsen/NetRatings NextCard’s ads ranked #5 among at-work viewers and #10 among at-home surfers.
Top 10 Ad Banners Viewed At-Home
Advertiser Reach % Creative
1. Bonzi Software 7.6 Your Internet Connection Is Not Optimized
2. Capital One 7.2 How FAST do you want your credit decision?
3. ClassMates 5.5 Do you know this person?
4. E Term 5.5 Save 50-70% on Term Life Insurance
5. Capital One 5.1 How FAST do you want your credit decision?
6. Capital One 4.8 0% Intro>>9.9% Fixed.
7. Network Solutions 4.8 Want a Web Address?
8. Barnes and Noble 4.5 Save up to 90%
9. AmeriDebt 4.4 Danger! Bill Problems?
10. Next Card 4.4 How long does your VISA APR go?
Source: Nielsen/NetRatings, Week of July 17-23
WHEREVER.net reported yesterday that its new ‘WHEREVER Card’, launched in April has been a huge success. The new prepaid Asian phone card has captured over 10% of the market share for IP telephony traffic to the Philippines and is now among the top 5 players in Hong Kong. In June WHEREVER.net launched a card for users calling Mainland China. During July the firm also launched a card for Indonesia. The ‘WHEREVER Card’ is available in various denominations and offers flexible zonal pricing. WHEREVER.net has 83 POPs around the world.Details
In terms of share of wallet, primary credit card accounts represent a very high-value to issuers. A new study released Monday shows that American cardholders are generally satisfied with their primary credit card accounts however some cardholder groups are more satisfied than others. PSI Global says this morning that it identified three cardholder segments: “High Satisfaction”, 47% of all cardholders; “Moderate Satisfaction”, 38% and “Low Satisfaction”, 15%. Overt dissatisfaction is low across all groups, but the study found varying degrees of satisfaction with primary card accounts among the segments. PSI also found distinct differences in satisfaction levels among different cardholder groups, such as “Transactors”, “Credit Revolvers”, “Internet Credit Card Users” and “Rewards” cardholders, as well as differences in satisfaction levels among life-stage segments. Interestingly, “Transactors” and senior cardholders are the most satisfied cardholder groups. The least satisfied groups are “Revolvers” cardholders under the age of 34. PSI said its study concluded that product features, such as interest rate, annual fee and grace period count most, but leveraging privacy protection and certain customer service attributes are also key to building or maintaining customer satisfaction. The PSI Global study, which is based on a survey of 4,082 U.S. households, evaluated 25 product or service attributes of credit cards.Details