Bank Corporate Payment Systems plans to issue commercial travel and
entertainment cards this July in seven European countries to employees of North
American customers. It will pilot the new product next month with about 500
employees from wholly owned Elavon Financial Services. The bank last August announced plans to self-issue cards in Europe.
bank plans to issue Elavon-branded cards initially to customers in the United Kingdom and
Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Switzerland, according to CPS senior
vice president of strategy and product Kurt Adams. Settlement options would
include the euro, British pound sterling and Swiss franc, and languages would
include English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The Visa-branded cards
will meet European technology standards that include full chip-and-pin
"80 percent of commercial card spend in Europe resides in these
countries," Adams said, citing a review of international card spending
within the bank's existing client portfolio and industry data. "While we
are issuing in these countries, we will have the opportunity to do cross-border,
too. We'll continue to look at opportunities in the market."
Bank indicated that it would continue to participate in the Global Commercial Payment Solutions network, a joint
venture it formed in 2001 with Visa International and six other card-issuing
banks. "GCPS allows us into certain countries that we don't have access to
today," Adams said. Through bank partnerships, GCPS can issue local-currency
cards in 37 countries.
strategy is to follow our multinationals," Adams said. "As this rolls
out, we'll get a better understanding on demand from our clients." Some
clients, for example, could opt to move their corporate card programs from GCPS
to the bank's new self-issued product, he said.
said the primary client needs in a multinational card solution are "the
single contract, single decision point of approval, global reporting and
ubiquitous acceptance." Bank sales executives also promote the bank's global expense reporting solution, launched last summer and now available in
multiple languages. "That's a big opportunity on the expense management
side," he said. "There are differences in these card programs in
Europe. We want to make sure we don't just take a U.S. solution and port it to
global client reporting, the bank plans to use existing technologies that
include its own web-based tools and those of Visa IntelliLink, Adams said.
Clients "will have roll-up views in any currency and 14 languages. This
tool already has interfaces between ourselves, our processor and Visa.
already have two clients who have said, 'We're ready to go when you're ready,' "
the business case for European expansion, officials looked at Fortune 500 businesses, "which we
think is a big target here," according to Adams. "Three hundred and
fifty do business with U.S. Bank and have multinational operations, and 100
currently use our corporate card products. It's a pretty strong opportunity in
itself." Because midmarket companies also are expanding in Europe, "our
target market is any commercial organization that has significant business"
in the region.
the bank plans to focus on "North America-based multinationals,"
Adams explained. "We'll continue to look at opportunities in the market,
but we really want to remain focused on this launch of the corporate card for
T&E. There really isn't anything on the road map at this point to be going
to European-based institutions." After launch, the bank also plans to
review multinational demand for other card products, such as payables.
support the European expansion and leverage local market expertise, U.S. Bank
hired former TSYS Europe executive Alan Gibson as its director of European
commercial payments. TSYS is a U.S.-based merchant acquirer. The bank also
plans to add sales and relationship managers in Brussels and multilingual customer
call center support from existing facilities in the Netherlands.
new to solo card issuance in Europe, U.S. Bank parent U.S. Bancorp has been in
the market for more than a decade. In 2000 it formed a merchant-acquiring joint
venture with the Bank of Ireland and since acquired the European merchant
business of Citibank and others, and bought out its partner. Elavon provides
merchant-acquiring services that cover a "couple hundred thousand merchant
locations" in Europe and has operations centers in Warsaw, Frankfurt and the
Dublin area. "While we haven't been there on the corporate card-issuing
side on our own, we have been there as an institution," Adams said. "We
cut our teeth on the merchant-acquiring division there."
Bancorp recently announced expansions to Latin America and the Middle East, and
Adams said "Asia/Pacific and Latin America are the two at the top of our
radar, but we're still early. We want to get this [European] one right first."