IPS Lures US Firms With Full Services

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LONDON - Yet another British company is beating the bushes in the US looking for clients who want to go to Europe or already have operations there.

International Payments Services offers one-stop shopping for all payments transactions a direct marketer makes in Europe. It has about 270 clients, the bulk in Europe including the catalog for Harrod's, the upscale London department store.

"We provide banking services to organizations that receive volume orders such as mail-order, charity and fulfillment through off the page, catalog, TV and the Internet," business development manager Tim Westwell said.

IPS does so by securing "bulk agreements with suppliers such as banks, enabling clients to save on bank charges while improving clearance and procession of orders," he added.

His company, Westwell contended, has few competitors. The Dutch Post Office offers similar services around Europe and so does a company in Vancouver, Canada, but that's it.

"We cover the water front, whether it's COD's in Germany or payments from bank accounts in other European countries," he said. "We handle checks, credit cards and postal orders."

In effect, customers outsource their payment processing, thus "freeing them from the many problems that can occur in setting-up and managing the non-stop issues of banking in different countries."

Equally important, Westwell said, is IPS' ability to offer clients "much lower charges than they are currently paying," a function, he added, of payment volume funneled through IPS channels to banks.

"We put up to 30 million checks a year through UK banks and can negotiate lower clearance rates, up to 50 percent less." Much of the volume is built through sweepstakes and promotions.

International checks clear quickly thanks to IPS' relationships with local banks. "We courier checks in bulk to local and foreign banks and clear them to accounts in client's names quickly in the currency of their choice.

"Although banking requirements and charges vary from country to country, we make this seamless to our clients by applying a standard set of rules, which means it's almost as simple and low-cost as handling local payments."

It is a service banks cannot offer because they handle too many transactions and are not specialized enough to deal with the specific problems of the direct marketing industry.

In the US, Westwell has been talking to DM agencies and list brokers who have clients anxious to go to Europe. "We are also working on deals with US companies who come to us from their European operations looking for better ways to handle money."

Westwell is reluctant to talk about his clients here but noted that Pepsi is one of them and Florida-based International Direct Marketing is another.

He conceded that the euro might make his company's services less important. But he noted the transition period before the euro becomes cash money is another three years.n

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