Before Providian Financial Corp. gained independence last year from its insurance company parent, "many people did not know who we were and what we were doing, or how many breakthroughs we had brought to this business," said Shailesh J. Mehta, chairman, president, and chief executive officer.

Now that Providian is on its own as a publicly held company - the insurance arm was sold to Aegon of the Netherlands - Mr. Mehta freely boasts about his 50 consecutive quarters of earnings growth, continual flow of new products, and advanced risk management techniques.

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