Electronic Clearing House Inc., a California-based independent service organization, said it has signed Heritage Bank of Reno, Nev., for its fledgling agent bank program.
Founded just last October by Nevada banker Wayne Condon, Heritage is the third bank to join Echo. The institution, which has equity of $4 million, will solicit merchants in nearby areas for credit card processing. Those customers would become clients of National Credit Card Reserve, an Echo subsidiary.
Another new agent bank, in New Mexico, will be announced soon, said Echo chief executive officer Joel. M. Barry.
Echo, based in Agoura Hills, Calif., has similar arrangements with Great Basin Bank in Nevada and Stockmen's Bank in Arizona, a company spokeswoman said.
"We've had this (agent) program for about four years, but we never promoted it, because Echo showed losses and we were concerned about banks' maybe not trusting our management," said Mr. Barry. "As we have now shown movement toward profitability, we have decided to promote it, sending out mailings to 900 banks in the western United States."
The company recently reported fiscal 1995 revenue of $14.1 million, a 47% increase over fiscal 1994, and a net loss of $176,000, or one cent per share. In fiscal 1994, the company lost $931,000, or 11 cents per share.
Echo had been keeping so low a profile that some industry observers knew little or nothing about it. Its one time in the spotlight was negative - the Federal Trade Commission forced Echo to accept responsibility for its dealings with a telemarketing firm that was found to have engaged in deceptive practices.
"They were giving us a hassle because we were processing telemarketing, which they were focusing on at that time," said Mr. Barry. "We chose to settle simply because we didn't want to fight them. It probably cost us about $20,000, but we just wanted to go on with our business."
Echo also agreed to let the FTC monitor any similar clients it would serve in the future.
Echo provides credit card processing to about 5,200 merchants. The company offers a joint terminal-printer package for $500.