services and hired a prominent outsider to head it. The chief executive officer of the unit, Advanta Information Services, is William J. Razzouk, a former top executive at Federal Express and America Online. Industry watchers see the move as confirmation that Advanta, which manages the eighth-largest portfolio of credit card loans, is increasingly serious about diversification. "We will be leveraging Advanta's skills in segmentation, data base management, and remote delivery services," said Dennis Alter, chairman of Horsham, Pa.-based Advanta. He said Advanta Information Services, also based in that Philadelphia suburb, will apply the organization's vaunted marketing skills to nonfinancial opportuntities. Mr. Alter and other officials would not discuss the products they have in mind. Mr. Razzouk, having played a key role in the rise of Federal Express Corp. in the 1980s, is seen as an expert in developing brand equity. Mr. Alter said Mr. Razzouk brings both managerial acumen and expertise in building brand awareness. Mr. Razzouk joined Federal Express as vice president of electronic sales in 1983 and climbed to the No. 2 job, executive vice president and head of worldwide customer operations. While he was there, the overnight-delivery company's sales ballooned from $1 billion to $9 billion. Mr. Razzouk, 48, spent four months as president and chief operating officer of America Online. He left the popular network for personal- computer owners in June, citing family reasons. "I'm familiar with fast-growth companies, and I have scaled companies before," Mr. Razzouk said after the Advanta announcement. "That will be a requirement here. I am attuned to supplying the highest-quality services and products to customers, and I will continue to do that." He said the subsidiary structure allows for "total focus as a standalone company," and Advanta has identified "communities of interest in the marketplace" to whom it will sell the new products. Analysts say Advanta, with six million customers, has been diversifying steadily for years and has had great success matching loan products to customers through its considerable data base marketing skills. Aside from credit cards, which it is also marketing in Europe, Advanta offers mortgages, auto loans, and small-business and equipment leases. The company has also made some unusual alliances with consumer information companies. Last year it acquired equity in a video dating company called Great Expectations Creative Management Inc. It has formed more predictable partnerships with the neural network company HNC Software Inc., San Diego, and Innovative Services of America in Golden, Colo., which compiles data bases on consumer purchasing habits. "Advanta is saying, 'We will expand our data base marketing beyond what we are doing now,' " said Michael J. Freudenstein, an equity analyst for J.P. Morgan Securities. Frank Caruana, director of marketing systems for Danielian Consulting Group, Scottsdale, Ariz., and a former Advanta executive, said the information services subsidiary is further evidence that the traditional lines separating banking, retailing, telecommunications, and entertainment are blurring. While Advanta has a diverse approach to "augmenting its core competencies," he said, "the question is if it has brand and clout and alliances to go outside of its niche market." Mr. Alter said competition with Advanta Information Services is likely to come most from nonfinancial companies. However, Capital One Financial Corp., Falls Church, Va., has hinted about unveiling information-based products.
Save $400 off your subscription. Special offer ends April 30, 2017.
No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.
Have an account? Sign In