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CAPITAL ONE: BURIED TREASURE IN CREDIT CARDS

In the late '80s, Richard D. Fairbank and Nigel W. Morris were consultants with an idea. They had decided that the real value of a credit-card issuer lay in the information it has about customers, which could be analyzed and used to test interest in new financial products. The idea wasn't an easy sell, since it required big outlays to build and buy databases as well as software to analyze the data. Some 25 banks passed before Signet Banking Corp. bit in 1988.

Since the rollout of the first customized card, a balance-transfer product, the business has grown at lightning speed. Signet spun off the credit cards as Capital One Financial Corp. in November, 1994. The stock has doubled since, and Cap One is now among the top 10 card issuers. Fairbank is CEO and Morris is president.

Capital One soon plans to branch out from cards to offer nonfinancial and financial products, too. ''We're not credit-card guys,'' says Morris. ''The information revolution just came early to the credit-card business.''



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Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
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