If it were independent and publicly traded, Providian Bancorp would command the attention investors lavish on the major "monoline" card issuers profiled elsewhere in these pages.

As a subsidiary of the Louisville, Ky.-based insurance company Providian Corp., the credit card lender pleases shareholders more indirectly. Known internally as Bancorp, it delivered one-quarter of consolidated revenues ($454 million out of $1.8 billion) and 36% of pretax earnings ($107 million out of $293 million) in the first half of this year.

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