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ABN Amro Gets Affinity Pact with Ford

ANN ARBOR, Mich.-ABN Amro Mortgage Group has entered into an affinity agreement that allows it the potential to lend to 250,000 Ford Motor Co. employees and retired employees, The American Banker said.

The accord was made possible through an existing relationship between Ford and Standard Federal Bank of Troy, Mich., another unit of the Dutch bank ABN Amro Holding NV, said Marc Strampel, ABN Amro Mortgage senior vice president of business development.

Wells Fargo to Help Customers Track Purchases

NEW YORK-Wells Fargo & Co. will start to help customers classify their purchases by merchant to help them to better manage their personal finances.

The American Banker reported that Wells will classify expenses made through credit cards, by check or with an ATM card as long as the accounts are with wells. Christopher Musto, analyst and president of Watchfire GomezPro, said the move offers a more consolidated view than banks typically offer and may help increase loyalty.

Microsoft, Visa, Others Join Against Phishing

NEW YORK-Visa USA Inc., Microsoft Corp., eBay Inc., and WholeSecurity Inc. have started the "Phish Report Network" aimed at building a database that will prevent customers from becoming victims.

"Phishers" send e-mails that supposedly come from banks to try to lure customers to fake sites and then try to get their passwords.

WholeSecurity software will be used to prevent customers enter their information on a site that it is in a database as counterfeit, the American Banker said.

Chase Wants to Expand Credit Card Portfolio

NEW YORK-JPMorgan Chase & Co. is planning to expand its credit card portfolio and may acquire other issuers, The American Banker said.

William I. Campbell, chairman of the Chase Card Services division, said in a presentation to investors that credit card issuers ranking between 10th and 20th were the most probable targets. The banking company also said it plans to raise its minimum payment for credit card holders and that it will begin a new advertising campaign in the third quarter.

Commercial and Industrial Lending Rising

NEW YORK-Bankers who responded to the Federal Reserve's quarterly senior loan officer survey in January are reporting increased demand for commercial and industrial loans, The American Banker said.

About 45% of domestic institutions saw an increase, up from just 25% in the last survey in October.

Mark Vitner, an economist at Wachovia Corp., said that in the last year "with the economy picking up and business confidence improving, we have seen some pickup in corporate borrowing," he said.

He said the recovery is "not particularly robust" as corporate balance sheets remain strong and many companies can afford to postpone borrowings.

It would be some time before such lending returns to levels seen during the 1990s' economic boom.

Bankers Concerned About CU Capital Changes

NEW YORK-Chris Cole, a regulatory counsel for the Independent Community Bankers of America, said that he is concerned the credit unions may have more capital, The American Banker said.

Cole said that if a National Credit Union Administration proposal to Congress for new capital requirements is approved then the new capital would help credit unions better compete against banks.

On the other hand, Keith Leggett, an economist with the American Bankers Association, said that the proposal was good in that it proposes a capital-to-assets ratio comparable to the risk-weighted standards for banks.

Leggett also said that the 4% ratio to be considered adequately capitalized and the 5% ratio to be well capitalized are "meaningful leverage ratios," according to The American Banker. The daily said earlier proposals had set the adequate ratio at 2%.

Wachovia Closing 174 Branches

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-Wachovia Corp. will close 174 branches by June following its November acquisition of Birmingham, Ala.-based SouthTrust Corp, The American Banker said.

The branchers will be closed in five southeastern states and the most affected will be Florida, where 91 branches will close.

SouthTrust has 700 branches.

The $493-billion Wachovia will carry out most of the closings by June 9, just before it converts its computer system and hangs its name on SouthTrust branches, The American Banker said.

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