Fitch Ratings last week released its inaugural crop of credit card ABS seller/servicer ratings, making it the third rating agency to use formalized assessments of credit card issuers' servicing capabilities. Fitch released ratings on First National Bank of Omaha, and sister company InfiCorp Holdings, HSBC Finance, MBNA America Bank, The Metris Companies and Providian National Bank.

"This is a required part of our rating analysis," said Kevin Duignan, managing director in Fitch's ABS group. Duignan added that Fitch has always reviewed seller/servicer operations, but has now phased in the formal review process. Eventually, Fitch hopes to rate all credit-card seller/servicers in the market - requiring that an issuer have a Fitch seller/servicer rating before it rates transactions. "We will be applying it to all seller/servicers and issuers of credit card ABS that we rate," he summed.

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