customers, Marine Midland Bank is most concerned about holding on to its current customers. By introducing a loyalty program called MarineAdvantage, the Buffalo- based subsidiary of HSBC Holdings PLC hopes to keep its most profitable and creditworthy customers. The MarineAdvantage program is being offered for free to people who fit that description, but customers who are not profitable must pay a $25 fee to enroll. "We have been putting record numbers of accounts on our books the last two years," said Peter B. Davidson, executive vice president of Marine Midland. "But the next thing we and the industry have to focus on is maintaining our portfolios." Marine Midland, which is the 27th-largest card issuer according to The Nilson Report's midyear calculations, has grown to $1.8 billion in receivables from $1.3 billion in 1993 when Mr. Davidson joined the bank. Marine Midland has 1.5 million accounts. Also since 1993, a number of top executives have joined and left the card division. Most notably, Catherine Marsh, who joined Marine Midland as senior vice president one month before Mr. Davidson, was hired to run Bank of New York's card operations several months ago. Philip Christian, a former American Express executive, is now running card marketing for Marine Midland. Mr. Christian, senior vice president, was senior director of marketing at American Express. Mr. Davidson said that MarineAdvantage is the most targeted loyalty program the bank has implemented. "Other programs were broad-scale initiatives," but MarineAdvantage specifically rewards creditworthy customers for either using their credit cards frequently on big-ticket items or simply maintaining a large outstanding balance, he said. Maritz Inc. of Fenton, Mo., is administrating MarineAdvantage, which offers cardholders seven different levels of rewards based on their card spending. Cardholders earn five points for each dollar charged. The rewards, offered by 61 retail, dining, and travel partners, range from $15 Spiegel gift certificates to a $1,000 rebate on any new vehicle. The latter requires 325,000 points or $65,000 in spending. Next year, the bank will test the program's value in attracting new customers, said Mr. Davidson. MarineAdvantage was inspired by a similar program called Choice that is offered to customers of Midland Bank, another unit of HSBC, in the United Kingdom. Mr. Davidson said that the Buffalo bank has leveraged its relationship with its parent in other ways as well. For example, the bank is rolling out a credit card in San Francisco and New York that targets Chinese-Americans. Through the Hongkong Bank division of Marine Midland, Mr. Davidson's marketing group learned important information about marketing to Chinese- Americans. The card, called Wayfoong, which means ever growing and prosperous in Chinese, carries the Hongkong Bank logo. The bank also hired Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking customer service representatives.
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