The Metris Cos. Inc. spent three years turning itself around and by this year looked like it finally had the wind at its back. Still, it was not surprising that it decided to sell, given what has been happening in the card industry - consolidation, a cost-of-funding disadvantage versus larger players like its buyer, HSBC Holdings, and coming policy changes that some say influenced Metris' thinking.

When asked during one of several recent interviews when Metris decided to sell, Matt Melius, its executive vice president of operations, said: "The answer isn't so much when but why. One of the key challenges we continue to face as a business is funding efficiency - we were competing against banks that were substantially bigger than us."

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