First Data Corp. expects to finish installing next month a multimillion dollar computer system designed to help banks closely manage their credit card programs.
The computer system is seen as an important, step for the New York-based computer services company, which is the largest provider of bank card processing services in the United States.
"These kinds of things are just strategic moves to help solidify market share," said Louis Giglio, a vice president and stock analyst at Bear, Steams & Co., New York, who has seen a demonstration of the computer system.
The system consists of an Amdahl Corp. mainframe computer with a data base management system from Oracle Corp.
Easy Access to Customers
The data base, which First Data calls Noah, will manage a massive repository of credit card information that the vendor's customers can access to do such things as design marketing campaigns of or analyze profitability for the credit card operations.
First Data has maintained such a data base for about five years. But until now, it has been available only on an aging computer system that has been hard to use, said Ann Cannon who runs the Noah business for First Data Corp.'s First Data Resources credit card processing unit in Omaha.
Ms. Cannon said the new computer system will be technically more robust, and much easier to use than the current system.
She added that most, though not all of First Data Resource's credit card processing clients, use the Noah database, which is offered as a supplementary service to the company's core credit card processing operation.
Processes 54 Million Accounts
First Data Resources currently processes about 54 million credit card accounts, according to The Nilson Report, an industry newsletter.
First Data Resources is believed to contribute roughly 40% of the revenues of First Data Corp., which Thursday reported net income of $75 million for the first half of this year, up 23% over the previous year. Revenues were $726 million - 26% greater than the previous period.
Other players in the credit card processing market include Total System Services Inc. of Columbus, Ga., Banc One Corp. of Columbus, Ohio, and Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Tex.
The Nilson Report estimated that about 55% of the 185 million bank card accounts in the United States last year were administered by third-party processors
Winning Banks to Outsourcing
Mr. Giglio of Bear Stearns said that robust data analyses services like First Data's Noah can play a key role in helping credit card processors convince banks to outsource operations, by assuring the banks that doing so will not diminish their ability to get at customer data.
Mr. Giglio added that such capabilities could help First Data compete for what is turning into the Holy Grail of credit card processors: winning a contract to process Citicorp's massive portfolio of about 30 million bank cards.
"It can help them compete for some of those big banks, namely Citicorp, that haven't seen the light"' about outsourcing, he said.
Early this summer, Citicorp began using an outside processor for the first time, when it started using Total System to process 200,000 Visa and Mastercard corporate cards.
Many in the industry believe that Citicorp, as part of its ongoing effort to streamline, is considering outsourcing more of its portfolio.
"Let me put it this way, I'm sure that some discussions have been had," Mr. Giglio said.
But Citicorp officials have never given any indication that they are interested in such a move.