A former U.S. Bancorp executive has created an on-line market for buyers and sellers of credit card portfolios and other types of loans.
The Web site, www.AssetExchange.com, will list assets for sale -- including card portfolios, auto loans, mortgages, student loans, small-business loans -- and let potential buyers browse. Card assets will be the initial focus of the company, which will take a "modest commission" when a transaction initiated through the site closes.
AssetExchange.com was started in July by William Koo, who was in charge of buying and selling card portfolios for U.S. Bancorp, where he was a vice president until 1997. Mr. Koo said his service aims to attract large and small buyers and sellers, but he figures that mostly smaller ones will do business there, in order to avoid the hefty fees charged by investment bankers.
"Brokerage firms have to charge a higher fee to make money off the smaller portfolios," said Mr. Koo, who is chief executive officer of AssetExchange in Portland, Ore. "Some (brokers) will decline to represent the small portfolio, and that is where we can be a tremendous help."
Twenty buyers -- including some of the top 10 credit card issuers -- have registered with AssetExchange, but there have been no sellers. Mr. Koo said his company is just beginning efforts to attract sellers, and brokers are welcome.
Mr. Koo said he expects there will always be more buyers than sellers on the site. Credit unions and independent banks with portfolios of less than $20 million are likely candidates for the service, he said.
AssetExchange charges a fee of less than 0.5% of the portfolio's value, Mr. Koo said. By contrast, brokers can charge more than 3%.
According to one investment banker who handles card portfolio sales, Robert K. Hammer of Thousand Oaks, Calif., 66% of credit card issuers use a broker to complete a sale.
"People choose us because of the hands-on analysis we offer," Mr. Hammer said. "We reduce the seller's risk, provide due diligence, and negotiate contracts."
AssetExchange is a hybrid between a classified ad service and a broker, acting as a go-between for the sellers and buyers registered on its Web site. Sellers and buyers register on AssetExchange and describe the kind of deal they want. Sellers' identities are not revealed, but certain characteristics of the portfolio they want to sell are divulged, so buyers can perform some analyses.
A buyer interested in making an offer would contact AssetExchange, which would present the offer to the seller. The identities of both parties are revealed only upon mutual consent.
Mr. Koo says his company is unique, though a number of on-line ventures are selling mortgage securities.