MINNETONKA, Minn. - Metris Companies Inc. has designated its Orlando facility as its Hispanic operations center.

The office is being revamped to accommodate 300 employees in collections and customer service. One hundred people work there now.

Metris took over the Orlando facility from Popular Inc., the parent company of Banco Popular North America, when Metris subsidiary Direct Merchants Credit Card Bank purchased Banco Popular's U.S. card portfolio in August. Metris gained about 283,000 accounts from the deal, with about $180 million of receivables.

Metris chairman and chief executive officer, Ronald N. Zebeck, said the company has adopted a strategy to target Hispanic customers. According to Metris, 300,000 Orlando residents are Spanish-speaking.

"It's an underserved market, which is very similar to our primary base of consumers," said Metris spokesman Mike Smith.

Metris issued cobranded credit cards this year with Hispanic retailer La Curacao in California. It also issued Spanish versions of Direct Merchants Bank credit cards. Metris is now working with the Internet service provider Prodigy Communications Corp. to develop a Spanish version of the Prodigy Internet MasterCard.

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