The MAC brand, whose familiar rainbow logo adorns many an automated teller machine, was quietly given a death sentence recently when the company that now owns it, Concord EFS, decided to consolidate all its ATM network operations under the Star brand.
In February, Concord, the Memphis-based transaction processor, acquired Star Systems Inc. which owned the countrys largest network. Concord has since decided to use the Star name for the three networks it controls; Cash Station is the third.
The Star brand won out over MAC because of its broad reach, according to a letter dated April 24 that was sent to MAC customers and signed by Ronald V. Congemi, the president of Star.
While the business decision may have been sound, it nonetheless saddened nostalgic MAC loyalists. The brand has been around since 1979, when Money Access Service Corp. was formed in Philadelphia by 13 banks, and the acronym ruled supreme in the Midwest and Northeast ATM markets for years.
The MAC brand was extremely strong, said Brian Maguire, the vice president of marketing for Commonwealth Bancorp in Norristown, Pa. People would say they had to stop at a MAC machine.
All of the people interviewed for this article said they foresee no confusion over the rebranding.
Consumers are used to changing names, with all the consolidation in the financial services industry, Mr. Maguire said. As long as their convenience is not disrupted and they continue to receive the high level of service that they have in the past, I think theyll be fine with it.
Barbara Span, a Star spokeswoman, acknowledged the challenge of replacing the MAC and Cash Station brands. MAC is an extraordinary brand name. Cash Station is a strong brand name in its own region. Its important in the core MAC region to communicate to the consumer that the MAC name is changing to Star, and to help the consumer understand what this means is still greater access than they had before.
The MAC network was sparked by a 1976 study by Philadelphia National Bank on shared ATM networks. Doug Anderson, who is now president of Genpass ATM Solutions, headed the study for Philadelphia National, and he was put in charge of the network when it was born.
He reported to Bipin Shah, who is now chief executive officer of Genpass Inc. of Fort Washington, Pa., which provides ATM and electronic funds transfer processing services.
Philadelphia National was later bought by CoreStates Financial Corp., which itself was bought by First Union Corp.
Last year MAC had about 2,700 financial institution members, and its 52,500 ATMs processed 186 million transactions a month.
It grew much, much larger than we had ever anticipated in the early days, Mr. Anderson said. It was Bipins direction beginning in the mid-80s that led to the greatest growth spurt through an aggressive acquisition initiative.
As for the MAC brand, I certainly have a sentimental attachment to it, and I hate to see it go, he said.
Concord, which has sent free Star decals to its financial institution clients, plans to reimburse them for some of the cost of changing each ATMs signage.
Reimbursements will be made for changes made from June of this year through 2003. Banks will be reimbursed for up to $1,000, depending on the size of the sign, through next year. In 2003 the reimbursements will be halved.
Mr. Maguire said Commonwealth Bank is still accepting proposals from signage vendors for its 61 ATMs. However, the reimbursement numbers Concord is promising will not be sufficient to offset our cost, he said.
But Gary Bargeron, senior vice president and manager of ATM marketing for First Union, said the reimbursement guidelines will be sufficient. This does not give me any heartburn at all.
First Union recently finished changing its Honor ATMs to Star. Honor acquired Star in 1999 and took the Star name.
In the latest round of brand switching, few banks have converted their signs yet, but the network integration has been progressing smoothly, according to Concord.