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The Green Sheet Online Edition

February 27, 2012 • Issue 12:02:02

FIs awaken to prepaid's power

sellingprepaidAs financial institutions (FIs) have increasingly recognized the value in prepaid card strategies, so has the need arisen for programs to support such strategies. To meet this new demand, The Members Group, a Des Moines, Iowa-based payment solution aggregator and integrator, launched a client-service department to manage the company's growing prepaid card programs for its core client base of credit unions and community banks.

The TMG Retail Payments Team, formed in October 2011, oversees product implementations, client portfolio expansion and cardholder services as part of the company's integrated prepaid card programs. TMG offers several Visa Inc.-branded products: two general purpose reloadable cards (ATIRAreload and the Hispanic community-focused Coopera Card); the ATIRApay payroll card; and ATIRAgift, an open-loop gift card.

According to Konrad Christensen, TMG Retail Payments Product Manager, most FIs need training and support to successfully manage prepaid programs. "We created this retail payments team, and the primary objective was to get these cards into these FIs' hands and work behind the scenes – the paperwork, the training – to deliver the products," he said.

Until recently, the only prepaid option available to TMG clients was a highly customized version of ATIRA serving large FIs. When interest from midsize FIs arose in 2011, TMG decided to overhaul its program.

"We redesigned the product to make it more standard, the same fee structure for everybody," Christensen said. "We have a standard plastic that they can have their logo on. We made it less expensive, and it really just took off. From a one-branch bank or credit union to a 30-brancher down in San Antonio, large or small, there's definitely a need for it."

Value-added attractions

Christiansen noted that community-based FIs can leverage prepaid cards to reach many consumer segments, including teenagers, frequent travelers and "mainstream customers who are looking for new ways to manage their finances or carry money."

He believes prepaid cards create an opportunity for FIs to extend bank-customer relationships over time, especially as budget-conscious parents, students and other customers continue to seek payment methods that help streamline spending.

In 2010, TMG identified a problem experienced by an FI client that did not offer prepaid cards. Christensen said, "They had 14,000 potential accounts, people coming … and saying, 'I'd like to open a checking account with you' – 6,000 they had to turn away because they didn't qualify for the checking account. We knew there was a need out there [for prepaid] from a target market perspective."

With TMG's prepaid card program in place to offer low-income customers, credit unions decline fewer customers, Christensen stated.

Quick service acclaim

Another consumer segment served by TMG are unbanked employees. Workers who do not qualify for checking accounts can have paychecks direct deposited onto the ATIRApay payroll card. Christensen said one vertical market suited to TMG's payroll card are quick service restaurants that employ teenagers, often referred to as the underbanked.

Christensen gave as an example one fast-food franchise in Florida that had its highest volume of business on Fridays, which happened to coincide with payday. As a result, teenaged employees were coming in to the restaurant to cash paychecks during peak business cycles.

"They decided they didn't want to worry about it anymore, so they gave them this card," Christensen said. "Instead of having to give these kids a paycheck and having them come in to get it cashed, they gave them the power of plastic." end of article

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