TMG Financial Services, the agent issuing card arm of The Members Group, a payments CUSO affiliated with the Iowa Credit Union League, said that 19 credit unions have opted to begin offering business credit cards through an agent issuing relationship with the organization.
“The partnership with TMGFS allows us to provide our business members with an option that will enhance their financial management capabilities without diverting our resources and commitment to all of our other products and services,” said Jim Carr, vice president, commercial group of FORUM Credit Union, one of the 19 that has launched a business card with TMGFS.
The $945 million asset credit union, headquartered in Fishers, Ind., serves more than 100,000 members, including approximately 3,000 business members.
“During the past couple of years, we have seen an increasing need to develop and provide a business credit card option that is beneficial to both the credit union and its member businesses,” said Jeff Russell, president/CEO of TMG Financial Services.
“Credit unions are focusing on their core competencies. Even if they currently own and run a successful consumer credit card portfolio, they may not have the resources to implement, maintain and grow a credit card product that focuses on the needs of a business member," Russell said.
"Like our standard product, we own the receivables and run the business card portfolio, while working closely with our partner credit unions to have their brand be front and center, while ensuring the product is competitive with the largest business card issuers in the country,” he said.
Russell explained the CUSO so far found that most business card underwriting does not differed too much from consumer card lending, in part since so many small business owners financed their businesses on their own credit. In cases where a credit line might need to be larger or where the business might be more complicated or a bit bigger, the CUSO turns to an outside firm that specializes in business loan underwriting for assistance.
“In addition, most of our business card lines are not all that large, between $15,000 and $30,000,” he added. Some of the benefits of the ATIRA credit business card include consolidated rewards, credit lines based on employees’ roles, viewing activity across all cards under the owner’s control, as well as one monthly payment. There is no annual fee the first year, and $39 each year after.
Russell said that as credit unions are seeking ways to better serve their business members, outsourcing a product such as this just makes sense.
“Business members are no different than individual credit union members, they want a competitive credit card program,” he said. “They want low rates, rewards, but they also want the ability to manage their accounts online with a level of sophistication that allows them to easily track how the card is being used. We’re pleased to partner with FORUM on such a product.”
Andy Mattingly, chief marketing officer with FORUM, explained that TMG had won its business card portfolio after the CU had ended its eight year relationship with FIA, the card issuing arm of Bank of America.
“We had sold our consumer card portfolio to the then MBNA and then started our business card program with FIA after Bank of America purchased MNBA. We liked it because we didn't believe we could provide the sorts of benefits our members would want in a business card on our own,” Mattingly explained.
Mattingly said that because FORUM had just rolled out the program, there has not been much member reaction to it. He also noted that because of an agreement with FIA, the CU could not market its new business card to its current cardholders. In fact, the CU didn't know which of its members even had the FIA card, he said. But he added that once the program is up and running, the CU would likely market it broadly to the membership.
Mattingly also explained that because the CU has not yet begun to approach the 12.25% cap on member business lending, it had not really considered it one of the more appealing aspects to issuing a business card through an agent relationship.
“We haven't really focused on that, but check back with me in a couple of years, and we might have started to pay more attention to it,” Mattingly added.
The 32,000-member Kohler Credit Union, headquartered in Kohler, Wis., has been issuing business cards through TMG since fall 2010 when the CUSO launched the program, according to Kohler Chief Financial Officer John Ehmann. Ehmann reported the credit union has about 30 business cards issued through the program and that it turned to TMGFS after selling its consumer card portfolio to the CUSO roughly a decade ago.
“We are one of the owners of that CUSO so we know them pretty well,” Ehmann said.