Credit card consulting firms are beginning to look more like their clients lately. At least two such firms have applied for charters to open credit card banks, and others have considered doing so.
Card Issuer Program Management, the consulting firm started by former Wachovia Corp. executive Jerry D. Craft, applied to the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance a couple of weeks ago to establish Infinova Bank. The Atlanta-based firm expects to receive approval within several months.
Another consulting firm, First Annapolis, also plans to open a limited purposed credit card bank. The Linthicum, Md.-based firm filed an application with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Frederick A. White, president of First Annapolis, declined to elaborate on its strategy.
Card Issuer Program Management, which offers card portfolio management services, sees Infinova Bank as an opportunity to work with nonfinancial businesses such as cable and utility companies.
William Farr 3d, who would be chief executive officer of Infinova, said the bank would expand "our capability to serve a broader array of clients in the nonfinancial sector."
Currently, Mr. Farr is a consultant for Card Issuer Program Management, which is now a subsidiary of Infinova Corp., a holding company created to accommodate a bank charter.
Infinova would create a cobranded card that could offer customers special benefits such as discounts and rebates.
Mr. Farr said Infinova will seek companies that typically bill their customers for services on a monthly basis, and therefore have an ongoing relationship with the cardholder.
Infinova might also issue credit cards for other banks-for example, those that used it to hold all or some of their card receivables.
Michael Auriemma, president of Auriemma Consulting Group, Westbury, N.Y., said it had rejected the idea of starting a bank.
"One of the reasons we decided not to do it now is because we don't want to compete against our clients," he said.
Irving J. Levin, chief executive of Renaissance Bankcard Services, which was one of the first consulting firms in 1992 to offer bank services, said such an arrangement need not create conflicts of interest if the bank remained small and niche-oriented.
Renaissance offers its bank services through Orchard Bank, Ontario, Ore., which focuses on the secured credit card market.
Mr. Farr said the dominant brand of cards issued by Infinova would be that of the partner; "Infinova" would not appear on the card.
Mr. Farr, a 20-plus-year veteran of Wachovia Bank, which was previously called First Atlanta, worked with Mr. Craft for eight years before he left the bank to become president of Georgia Federal Bank.