Equifax Inc. has introduced a new bankruptcy notification system that promises to provide its clients with faster and more detailed information.

The product, called Beware, can convey personal bankruptcy information to creditors within three days, according to executives at the Atlanta-based credit bureau.

Equifax officials say that delivering the information within this time frame will enable retailers and financial institutions to place their claims against the bankrupt individual faster. The ability to act quickly, they say, may give these creditors the chance to recover their losses and avoid further risk.

"It's about getting in line earlier in the process," said John Rougeou, a senior vice president for Equifax.

'At-Risk' Reports

Beware can report as many as a dozen categories of information, including trustee data, attorney-of-record data, and asset/liability and income/expense ratios.

It identifies all the "at-risk" accounts in the client's divisions and portfolios, particularly credit granting, collections, mortgage, or even legal departments. The credit bureau collects bankruptcy filings manually from 180 courts nationwide, and then sends that information to its subscribers via fax or computer system.

This is Equifax's first comprehensive bankruptcy notification system, although the company has always provided this information as part of its credit reporting service, Mr. Rougeou said.

The product is currently being tested by four major financial institutions and one large retailer, the names of which were not disclosed. Equifax plans to roll out Beware soon, targeting its largest banking clients.

Mr. Rougeou said that Beware was faster and provided more information than any of its competitors' similar offerings.

"In my opinion, TRW and some of the others' systems are slow," he said, adding that their products may take weeks to get the filings to their clients.

However, TRW officials say that their bankruptcy notification product, introduced more than a year ago, can provide 95% of bankruptcy filing to its subscribers within three days, as well.

Michael Scharf, a product manager for TRW Information Services, said that Beware "sounds a lot like the Visa and Mastercard bankruptcy product" that the two card associations offer through Equifax.

Beware is the latest in a recent string of product offerings from Equifax.

The Big Three financial information service provider last month introduced Decision Power, a cross-selling tool for bank branches, which it has been heavily marketing.

The company will soon also roll out Pathways, a point-of-sale check authorization system that allows retailers to customize varying controls for authorization. Pathways is currently in beta test.

Tom Chapman, executive vice president in charge of the information services unit, has been a driving force behind developing the new products and improving the unit's image since taking the helm more than four years ago, Mr. Rougeou said.

"New products are the lifeline of any company," he said. "And if you don't keep pumping them out, it's going to be a pretty short run."

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