SafeCard Services Inc., the credit card registration and marketing company, said it plans to move its corporate headquarters from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Jacksonville, Fla., in May.
SafeCard will purchase the American Express Regional Operating Center in Deerwood Park, a 350,000-square-foot facility that will house its new operation.
The announcement came about a week after the company announced a restructuring, a name change at the holding company level, and its first major credit card cobranding deal -- SunTrust Banks Inc.'s Tour Partners MasterCard with the Professional Golfers Association.
The holding company, Ideon Group Inc., which will focus on cobranding opportunities, will be based in Jacksonville.
SafeCard Services, which operates the core credit card protection business that is marketed through card-issuing institutions and retailers, will remain in Cheyenne.
All these moves are emblematic of "the strategy going forward -- to take SafeCard from basically a one-product company to a high-growth, consumer-driven marketing [firm] that will have multiple lines of business through a holding company and several operating units under the umbrella of that holding company," said William Lackey, vice president of investor relations.
Another Ideon affiliate, Wright Express, is based in Portland, Maine.
This 1994 SafeCard acquisition provides enhanced payment and information services to commercial vehicle fleets.
Paul G. Kahn, chairman and chief executive officer of SafeCard, has been running the company from Jacksonville, where he has lived since he took the reins at AT&T Universal Card Services five years ago.
Mr. Kahn joined SafeCard about a year ago.
SafeCard already has 180 employees in Jacksonville. Mr. Kahn will preside over the new operation.
Its reorganization under the Ideon umbrella awaits approval at the shareholders' meeting in April, but the move to Jacksonville is not dependent upon that vote.
Before consolidating in Cheyenne, SafeCard had its headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It still maintains a small sales staff there.
Starting with an overhaul of SafeCard's senior management earlier this year, Mr. Kahn has been moving forward quickly with plans to expand into new business lines.
While Jacksonville had been one of the cities considered for the SafeCard move, American Express Co.'s announcement of the phaseout of its operations there and subsequent sale of its facilities provided a golden opportunity.
"Our heart was in Jacksonville, but we had to convince our head," said Mr. Lackey. "It had to be for the right business reasons, and it was."
Mr. Lackey noted that Jacksonville has a quality labor force and SafeCard will be hiring "a lot of people" over the next two years. Purchase of the American Express center will alleviate the need to build a facility.
SafeCard will be able to rent unoccupied space at the center before taking title to the building, and American Express will rent space from SafeCard after the closing while phasing out its credit card operations there.
American Express employees will be given priority if they apply for jobs with SafeCard. The move will not affect employees in Cheyenne or Portland.
BAI Joins Study Of High-Tech Delivery
CHICAGO -- The Bank Administration Institute said it is teaming up with Boston Consulting Group for a major study of high-technology delivery systems.
The study will focus on competitive dynamics among banks and nonbanks in the context of the emerging interactive systems often associated with the "information superhighway."
As with a 1993 study of consumer transaction patterns by First Manhattan Consulting Group, "our goal is to provide information that can be incorporated into bank managers' strategic thinking," said David Taylor, executive vice president of BAI.
The project will be led by Boston Consulting Group vice presidents Bobby Mehta and Thomas Wurster.