Citigroup has decided to keep the modest credit card holdings of the former Travelers Group separate from the giant Citibank portfolio indefinitely.
The $1.8 billion of receivables in Travelers Bank of Wilmington, Del., would seem easily absorbable into Citibank's $60 billion operation, the biggest in the business.
One integration hurdle, however, is Travelers' cobranding contracts, which must expire or be terminated before Citibank can negotiate new ones. One key partner is the software company Intuit Inc., for which Travelers issues the Quicken Platinum Visa.
"You might be looking at another two to three years before Citigroup can integrate the accounts under the Citibank name," said Stanley Anderson, president of Anderson & Associates, Arvada, Colo.
Until then, the broader question remains of whether to consolidate the Travelers Bank operations within Citibank.
Travelers has historically offered its credit card as part of a broad financial management package. It came out with the Quicken card in 1992 and began targeting brokerage customers with a Salomon Smith Barney Platinum Visa a few years later. Travelers also offers credit cards to its insurance customers.
"They are in business to use the card as a vehicle to support overall financial relationships around asset management accounts," said Lee A. Spirer, principal at Booz Allen & Hamilton Inc. in New York. "The Quicken card was another hook to grab overall total financial management."
Citigroup officials would not discuss plans for the Travelers portfolio, but they are exploring cross-selling opportunities. Citibank credit card customers have been offered Travelers auto insurance, for example, and some Travelers customers are being solicited for Citibank credit cards.
Mr. Spirer said it would be cost-effective for Travelers to rely on Citibank as a kind of outsource processor until the brands are consolidated.
"The Travelers cards could be run out of Citibank's private-label business," which serves such retailers as Crate and Barrel and Ikea, Mr. Spirer said. But some analysts said the Travelers brand is not known well enough to warrant private-label treatment.