Supermarket banking innovator National Commerce Bancorp has acquired a minority interest in Transplatinum Service Corp., a provider of fuel card and other transaction processing services to the trucking industry.

National Commerce declined to say more about the size of the stake or to reveal financial terms.

The Memphis-based financial institution will be represented on Transplatinum's board of directors by Tom W. Scott, president of Commerce General, National Commerce's data processing subsidiary.

"The purchase is an opportunity to diversify further into financial services that have more to do with the payment system than net interest margin," National Commerce chairman Thomas M. Garrott said in a press release.

The acquisition highlights the growing prominence of fleet management services and their fleet card component. Fleet credit cards issued by third-party companies generated $2.36 billion in volume last year, according to The Nilson Report, an Oxnard, Calif.-based newsletter. Another $2.63 billion was attained through the fleet credit cards of gasoline and diesel marketers.

Credit cards for gasoline have shown the strongest growth, said Nilson Report president David Robertson. "This is because consumers are fickle," he said. "It's hard to maintain their loyalty."

Mr. Robertson said he doubts the National Commerce acquisition will have much effect on the fleet card business. "It's just that the bank sees some money to be made."

National Commerce, with $3 billion in assets, has long been viewed as something of a maverick within the banking industry. Though supermarket branches were initially dismissed as little more than check-cashing facilities, National Commerce broadened the concept to include a full- service bank in the mid-1980s under the leadership of Mr. Garrott, who had previously been a 17-year executive at a Memphis food wholesaler.

Its ensuing popularity with time-strapped families led to National Commerce's transformation from a steady performer to one of the industry's hottest regional stars.

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