To the Editor:
To comments attributed to MasterCard senior vice president Edward Hogan in a report on the American Bankers Association's bank card conference ("Gathering Was Geared Toward 'Big Picture,'" Sept. 14), all I can say is a resounding, "Yes, finally!"
It's about time that a national voice with enough clout to get quoted in the American Banker is speaking out against the proliferation of regional service marks in the electronic banking industry.
Readers might be shocked that I, representing the leading regional electronic funds transfer network in the central South, agree with Mr. Hogan. Your article indicated that my peers at other regional networks "scoffed at Mr. Hogan's idea." But I'm here to say that not only will the national marks muscle out the regionals, they must do so.
Hard as it may be to believe, more than 75 regional ATM networks are serving our population's need for fast cash. There are more brand names than you can shake an ATM card at. And the public, as well as our industry, is suffering.
Let's apply the logic of regional brand names to a major concern like Mr. Hogan's MasterCard. If regionalism is so good, why wouldn't MasterCard break up into, say, a hundred regional credit card brands, each operating in overlapping markets, with duplicate functions and costs? What a nightmare.
MasterCard, in reality, has done something right. They started long before the regional ATM networks, and I guarantee they'll be here long after we're gone. And to keep MasterCard on its toes, there's also a Visa and a Discover.
The demise of regional networks is already happening. The national total of 75 is down from 100 four years ago - still too many but a significant decrease. My network, Gulfnet, has acquired Near, a regional network in Louisiana. That's one less name in the pantheon, one less for the public to remember, one less system for our industry to support.
Natural selection is occurring in the marketplace - though in this era of consolidation, the outcome might be relatively pleasant for many of us. The regionals served their purpose in starting the electronic banking trend. Now that they have laid the groundwork, the nationals can pick up the torch and move forward at a significant savings of time, money, and confusion to everyone concerned.
Del R. Tonguette
President and CEO,