Russia's Neyva Bank has launched a virtual prepaid Visa card that is it issuing through its ATM network. And it completed the task in roughly two weeks.

The initiative builds on Compass Plus' recently launched TranzAxis open application development platform, which enables banks to build their own systems around debit or credit card issuance, among other retail banking services, Maria Y. Nottingham, Compass Plus' chief marketing officer, said in an interview.

The Yekaterinburg-based bank opened in 2009. "This was the first banking product they've done without using someone else," Nottingham said of the virtual card initiative. It issues the virtual cards through its 15 Nautilus ATMs.

Implementing the virtual-card product in 15 days "is unheard of in the industry," she said. "We're happy because this just showed the first glimpse of how it should be working."

CompassPlus launched TranzAxis in Russia in June and elsewhere in Europe in November. It plans to introduce the platform in the U.S. in September, Nottingham says. The company operates an office in Weston, Fla., near Miami.

As Nottingham sees it, banks issuing virtual cards from their ATMs could attract fee-based business from noncustomers who may be underbanked or unbanked and unable to conduct transactions online because they lack payment cards.

Virtual cards, which are just receipt printouts of the information needed to conduct card transactions online, are usable only in card-not-present situations. As such, the potential for fraud losses greatly diminishes.

In the Neyva Bank initiative, users of the service may choose between three different currencies for their virtual card and activate a text-message service for transaction notifications. They also may go online to manage their card by changing spending limits, blocking or unblocking access, checking transaction histories, receiving bank statements and, based on templates, making payments for mobile services, Internet access and other utilities, according to a July 17 press release.

Neyva customers may add funds into the virtual card account by depositing cash at the bank's ATMs or by transferring funds from an existing card account from any bank. Consumers do not need to open a Neyva account or provide personal details to receive the card. All they need to provide is a contact phone number, the release says.

Because the platform enabled Neyva to build the program using two internal tech staffers, it saved considerable money, Nottingham says. Banks can pay $150,000 to $250,000 to build a prepaid program using a vendor.

But Neyva was able to do so for the cost of the staffers' salaries for the two-week time it took them to create the system.

"So what's that, $5,000? $10,000? So that illustrates the cost savings," Nottingham says.

Nottingham declined to say specifically how much Compass Plus charges for the platform, saying only that it's less expensive than buying an entire retail banking system "with all the products already in there."

She compares using the platform to playing in a sandbox. "You can buy the platform and apps and see how it's done, down to the driver of an ATM or an interface, and you can change or scrap them," she says. "You can do all you want and start from scratch."

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