By  on April 17, 2006

STAMFORD, Conn. — Four years ago next month, GE's American Consumer Finance business established Retail Consumer Finance as a separate business unit and appointed Margaret Keane as its president and chief executive officer.

Working with all four major credit card providers, RCF develops and manages a variety of customized credit services for its retail customers, and recently added a "Dual Card" arrangement with Dillard's and American Express, and a PayPass program with Meijer Stores and MasterCard.

RCF works to "leverage the loyalty to the store's brand and drive retail sales," according to Keane, a 10-year veteran of GE who began her career at Citicorp. Typical benefits to the consumer include financial rewards, deferred payments and complimentary services such as gift wrapping. WWD recently caught up with Keane for a progress report.

WWD: How is the division of labor handled in your new program with Dillard's and American Express?

Margaret Keane: GE Consumer Finance is responsible for issuing the Dillard's American Express cards, managing the customer relationship and providing all customer service, billing and credit management. Just as with any other card accepted on a network, American Express provides network services such as carrying transactions from merchants to our system for authorization.

WWD: Your relationship with American Express is new. Do you have similar ones with MasterCard, Visa and/or Discover?

M.K.: Yes, we can offer our retail partners cards on any of the four payment networks, and a few examples include our J.C. Penney MasterCard and the Wal-Mart Discover Card. We have other Dual Card products with Sam's Club and Brooks Bros.

WWD: Has the divestiture of numerous in-house retail credit operations made your services particularly desirable now?

M.K.: Yes. Retailers are realizing tangible benefits from having credit card companies who are expert in banking and credit card operations and regulation handling their credit card programs, allowing the retailers to focus exclusively on sales. We couple deep expertise in the credit card business with long-standing experience in the retail sector. We can understand what our clients want in their relationships with the customer through research and analysis, and we deliver the customized programs to meet the shopper's needs.

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