It looks as if MBNA really has Citibank on its toes. In response to the credit card issuer's introduction of a platinum card, Citi is launching its own. It's part of an overall sales and marketing reorganization of Citi's credit card company, says an inside source.

Citi, with the help of Price Waterhouse, is apparently decentralizing its marketing operations by affinity groups, which include American Advantage, Ford, and, soon, prestige-starved platinum card holders. By decentralizing, Citi hopes to better focus its marketing and, consequently, produce more targeted materials so that the bank and its corporate partners can key in on those demographic groups most favorable to their relative programs.

The challenge now, according to the source, is "the technology phase," which has temporarily been put on hold. Citi has to gear up to both identify potential customers and produce the materials the bank will send to them. Says the source: "They should have the whole technology infrastructure in place by September because October 1 is the launch date. They're just kind of flying by the seat of their pants." Citibank was unavailable for comment.

All this talk about IBM's recent launch of its Gold Rush electronic commerce product suite slowing EC progression is mind boggling. The argument that it further pits Integrion's Gold standard against Microsoft's OFX standard amounts to little more than a smoke screen clouding the real issue: getting banks to sign up for bill payment and presentment services. For IBM, this launch was not about standards, but about aligning itself with Integrion to compete against Microsoft and its introduction of Marble, says an industry source. Further, he says, banks would be foolish to choose a third-party provider based on standards for APIs. "(Banks) are going to focus on robust operations, they're going to focus on who can process their transactions cheaply, most effectively and most efficiently. In the end, it's going to be a CheckFree/Integrion battle."

Where does Microsoft fit in? The buzz is that Microsoft is raising the stakes and will soon announce its entry into electronic bill pay and presentment. Who Microsoft will work with has yet to come to light. Microsoft was unavailable for comment.

Talk about over-reaction. When Sybase head of product development David Litwack recently resigned, analysts put up so many red flags there could have been a parade. The fact of the matter is that Litwack's departure had been planned when he was hired a year ago. Litwack came to Sybase at the request of his former Powersoft boss, the new CEO Mitchell Kertzman. Litwack had no intention of moving to California or making a career at Sybase; he came to the company to do a job, to pull together an integrated product strategyoan end-to-end architecture and product planofor the management team to implement. "It was always understood in the course of putting together this strategy that I would hand this off to the next generation team, which is what I've done," says Litwack, who hand picked the new team and is now CEO of the Internet application development company Silverstream. --bers tfn.com

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