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<p>WASHINGTON – Card Services for Credit Unions, (CSCU) the St. Petersburg, Florida credit card service organization with 1,600 credit union members, will introduce this summer two new modules into its online system designed to help member credit unions strengthen and keep their credit card portfolios. Where portfolio brokers and other card service firms have approaches that analyze portfolio strengths and weaknesses and, sometimes other programs to help strengthen those weaknesses, they also give credit unions an option to have a bank buy their portfolios and occasionally recommend those sales. CSCU has taken the approach of strengthening members’ management of both their credit and debit card portfolios with the goal toward getting their members to keep their credit card portfolios, and the new modules are designed to help that effort. “We really feel our members often don’t appreciate what their portfolios are really worth,” said Susan Chrzan, communications specialist with CSCU. “We want to help our members strengthen the management of their portfolios so that they can make money for the credit union more easily. CSCU unveiled the modules during their annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida recently. The modules are additions to a computer program CSCU calls the Virtual Card Consultant (VIC), which is both an analytic tool closely resembling those from portfolio purchasers as well as a system of management tools designed to help a credit union get more out of its portfolio. Rather than being a stand-alone program, VIC operates more like a window onto a credit union’s current credit card data that, according to both Chrzan and other industry sources, often arrives on the desks of credit union officers in large, difficult to read and understand reports. “VIC takes the member credit union’s own data from our processor, Certegy, and presents it to the credit union in a format which is clean and easy to read and understand,” Chrzan explained. And unlike the other credit union card servicers, there is no option at the end of the analysis to sell the credit union portfolio through the service provider. The two modules appear to be equally user friendly. From the CSCU site on the World Wide Web, CSCU demonstrated for reporters and interested credit unions how the two modules meld with the other parts of VIC. The new modules tutor credit unions on the latest in risk management strategy and bring them up to date on CSCU’s promotional activity. The most useful item in this section, according to Chrzan, is the area highlighting strategies that have been successful with other CSCU members. The marketing module gives examples of successful marketing campaigns in a number of different categories and shares the successful credit union’s statement inserts, print ads and other communications media as examples of what had been done to market cards more successfully in other areas. In the risk management module, member credit unions are taught how to implement safeguards and ongoing awareness efforts to guard against risk and to manage key risk factors through effective detection reporting systems and controls. The modules will provide credit unions, particularly smaller credit unions, an important way to access key expertise necessary to manage their credit card portfolios, Chrzan said. CSCU also stressed that, unlike the card purchasers in particular, its VIC program also covered debit cards and provided credit unions a more efficient way to monitor and market their debit card portfolio as well. A module on debit cards rolled out in April 2002 that “gives credit unions the valuable gift of time by taking the work out of debit card portfolio analysis, a CSCU announcement said. In technical terms it sounds like what they have set up are additions to an effective GUI, said Steve Railey, executive director with Payment Systems for Credit Unions, “a Graphic User Interface that takes data from a host source and formats it and presents it differently, in this case easier to read and understand,” Railey said, adding that PSCU offers its member credit unions a similar product that helps them work out their portfolio’s weaknesses in different areas but in a separate program from the analytical procedure. Railey praised CSCU’s product and approach that he said mirrored that of PSCU that, he said, also takes the attitude that the vast majority of credit unions should not sell their credit card portfolios. AssetExchange, a leading broker of credit unions’ credit card portfolios, said it also has a similar program and said that it keys in the data for credit unions taking part. The goal is to provide credit unions with the most accurate picture of their credit union profile and not to necessarily lead them to sell, said Asset Exchange’s Monique Allen. She admitted that, as brokers, Asset Exchange makes its money from setting up deals but stressed that the firm focuses on providing a credit union with an accurate analysis of its data in the hope that if it decides not to sell, the credit union might refer another which will.</p>

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