National Commerce Bancorp. will "keep on trucking" in its efforts to diversify.
The Memphis bank has acquired the final 70% share of Transplatinum Service Corp., Nashville, a provider of fuel card and other other transaction processing services to the trucking industry.
The acquisition is seen as letting National Commerce cash in on the increasing profitability of the fleet services industry.
"If you look way out on the horizon, what NCBC is interested in is a unique payment system," said Tom Scott, president of Commerce General, the bank's data processing subsidiary.
"The payment system developed by Transplatinum is very efficient and flexible - it was developed around the trucking and fuel card industry," Mr. Scott said. "We want fee income to be a bigger part of our total income. It's more predictable."
National Commerce, known more for its in-store supermarket bank branches, has $3.7 billion in assets. It acquired the initial 30% of Transplatinum Service Corp. in September of 1995.
Transplatinum Service Corp. provides fuel cards, electronic payment systems, and data processing to the trucking industry in the United States and Canada. It claims more than 1,100 carriers as customers, and 40,000 cardholders.
David Robertson, president of the Nilson Report, Oxnard, Calf., called the acquisition a good investment because the fleet card business is growing. "It can be profitable in the short term to issue fuel cards to truckers," Mr. Robertson said. In the long term, it's likely that National Commerce will sell the fleet card business to one of its three largest competitors, he said.
The Nilson Report ranks Ceridian the No. 1 fleet card issuer, followed by EDS and First Data Corp.
In the same issue, Mr. Robertson reported that long-haul trucking firms handled $10.46 billion in payments and cash transfers in 1995. Nearly 22% of the payments took the form of cash distribution to truckers.
"We'll be able to offer our trucking customers additional banking services, from checking accounts to loans, down the line," said Robert J. Harter, president of Transplatinum. "It will enhance the Transplatinum product."
Mr. Harter said truckers using Transplatinum's services eventually will have access to other ATMs, instead of being limited to getting cash at the 3,000 truck stops where the company currently does business. Other plans include arranging a direct deposit payment program through National Commerce.
The deal puts Transplatinum "on a more solid financial footing" and makes it a better competitor, Mr. Robertson said.