June 21, 2018
Elan, a payments services provider, is celebrating 50 years of providing credit card services to banks and credit unions, and it’s not slowing down. In the first quarter of 2018 alone, Elan partnered with 51 new financial institutions for an added customer base of more than 1.2 million.
In a time of rapidly changing digital technology, increasing compliance burdens, and aggressively competing rewards programs, more banks and credit unions have turned to Elan to provide a comprehensive, cost-efficient and safe suite of credit card products and services.
John Owens, general manager of the Elan Credit Card division of U.S. Bank, brings more than 25 years of experience to his role. He previously managed the U.S. Bank co-brand credit and debit card programs and also launched the bank’s prepaid card business, growing it to among the largest prepaid portfolios in the country. He’s excited about Elan’s growth and future prospects and recently shared his thoughts about the company’s focus on delivering high-value card programs to more than 1,400 financial institution partners.
Q: Elan is a key player in the credit card industry, yet it’s not a household name because of the behind-the-scenes nature of its products and services. Where does Elan fit in the industry landscape, and what’s contributed to its 50 years of success?
Owens: Elan has grown to have one of the top domestic credit portfolios by serving the credit card needs of one in 10 financial institutions in the United States. Its role in the industry is an important one, in that its model allows financial institutions of all sizes to provide their customers with nationally competitive products and services. Elan takes care of all critical components of the credit card program -- a full product set under the partner’s branding, marketing tools, training and promotional programs, digital assets, and 100 percent U.S.-based processing and customer service -- all within a comprehensive regulatory and fraud prevention framework that is becoming increasingly complex and resource intensive.
Q: Congratulations on your half-century milestone! Could you share a bit of Elan’s history and evolution over the last 50 years?
Owens: Elan’s first client came on board in 1968, when our banking predecessor First Wisconsin allowed other Wisconsin banks to leverage its proprietary charge card platform. Today, we have more than 1,400 financial institution clients in all 50 states. I would say the two biggest shifts along the way have been advances in technology and the dynamic regulatory environment. Technology has dramatically improved the efficiency of our service delivery model and continues to be a driving factor of our success. Elan’s web-based Client Resource Center (CRC), for example, is our primary communication, reporting, training and application engine. The CRC enables us to deliver banker-level messaging and content and be very targeted in our communication and reporting. And although technology remains a key investment for us, our attention and resources have also gone to responding to the dynamic regulatory environment. Maintaining compliance is challenging for any financial institution, and we bear the additional burden of managing the credit card piece on behalf of our entire client base.
Q: You partnered with 51 new financial institutions in the first quarter. How does that compare with other quarters, and what is driving that growth?
Owens: Elan supplements its organic growth with new client and portfolio acquisition. On average, we convert or launch 40-50 new portfolios a year, and over time, we have built a very efficient engine that guides partners through a proven process that we continually seek to improve. In the first quarter, we purchased an existing book of business from another company. This purchase was unique in that it included existing agent business, including several banks and credit unions, which boosted our quarterly gain.
Q: Disruption is happening across all segments of financial services. How does Elan help smaller banks and credit unions stay on top of rapidly changing technologies and consumer demands?
Owens: I think a big part of the appeal of the Elan model is that we have the capabilities of a large bank with resources specifically for Elan. We can easily adapt to changing customer preferences and industry demands and pass on these capabilities to our partners. As an example, Elan was able to offer new digital technology, including mobile pay capabilities and location services, to our more than 1,400 bank and credit union customers that would not normally have the resources to bring these to their customers. We continue to build out our digital capabilities from a servicing perspective as well, even as branch and call center interactions remain a critical part of a card program’s success.
Q: How would you describe the changes we’ve seen in card regulation, and how does Elan make it easier for its clients to navigate those requirements?
Owens: The current regulatory environment is dynamic and detailed. We always focus on doing what’s right for the client and helping them maintain a high level of trust with their customers. Sales integrity is a great example. Elan has an onboarding process that ensures we receive proof of the applicant’s consent to apply, along with robust reporting and fraud-detection mechanisms to safeguard the integrity of the business.
Q: What are some of the recent Elan card products and services that you’re most proud of, and why?
Owens: Elan has a full suite of products designed to cover the varying needs of everyone across the credit spectrum. Some are new to or re-establishing credit, others have used credit cards for decades. Some prefer a good rate; others want the best rewards for their lifestyle. We also pay attention to the ever-changing marketplace and recognize the need to respond to shifts in rewards, offers, and product features that affect customer expectations and preferences. We regularly improve our products to reflect those changes, such as the new self-service capabilities that will be available for all Elan cardholders over the course of the next year. We are also refreshing our product suite this summer, bringing our partners and their customers an even more competitive set of options.
Q: Why are you optimistic about Elan’s future growth prospects?
Owens: The rapid pace of change makes the Elan model increasingly attractive because we have the required infrastructure and resources to provide competitive and compliant products. We offer turnkey marketing programs, customer service, fraud protection and feature functionality without the need for clients to investment in human and systemic resources. Additionally, Elan owns, manages and funds all provision and credit risk, which is a critical economic benefit regardless of where we are in the credit cycle.
For more information about Elan, contact us here.
"Elan, a payments services provider, is celebrating 50 years of providing credit card services to banks and credit unions."