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Update Newsletter: Spring 2002

From the Director

Welcome to this inaugural edition of Update and an introduction to the Payment Cards Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. This will be a regular publication highlighting Center activities and industry developments of interest to those in the payment card industry, academia, and public policy.

Rapid advances in technology, changes in regulation, and consolidation among financial firms continue to alter the landscape of the financial services industry. With these changes, new entrants into the payments system have emerged. These developments are of interest not only to the Federal Reserve but also to the broad set of industry players, academic researchers, policymakers, and the public at large.

Because the Third Federal Reserve District has a large concentration of participants in the payment card industry, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has had a long association with these industry players. This natural association with the payment card industry and the related expertise that has developed over a number of years ultimately led to the formation of the Payment Cards Center in late 2000.

During our first year, in addition to setting up and staffing the Center, we engaged in a dialogue not only with colleagues within the Federal Reserve but also with representatives from external constituencies to help us shape a relevant agenda. We greatly value these relationships and consider such interactions critical to our strategic intent of being grounded by market realities.

These early interactions helped define our agenda and business purpose as a source of knowledge and expertise in this increasingly important segment of the financial services industry. Today, general-purpose credit cards dominate the arena, but innovations in debit cards, smart cards, and related payment vehicles represent new opportunities that have implications for the structure and efficiency of the financial system. A key element of the Center's mission statement is to emphasize our intent to ensure that the work we do incorporates the perspectives of all interested parties. In this way the Center provides a forum for the points of view of not only the Federal Reserve but also industry, academia, policy-makers, and the public at large.

The Center has been established as the driver of payment card studies at the Philadelphia Fed. We execute our mission through a dynamic structure of active partnerships, with both internal and external constituencies. In this issue of Update, we discuss our early efforts in building partnerships and provide brief summaries of several workshops held over the past year.

For more information on the Center and full reports on conferences and workshops, please visit our website at http://www.philadelphiafed.org/pcc. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions as to how we might effectively shape the Center's agenda to address the needs of market participants and others interested in this important and evolving industry.