Money Odds & Ends

Top health insurance companies slash earnings projections
Health care insurers Humana Inc. and Wellpoint Inc. issued lower profit warnings this week, sending their stocks tumbling.
Louisville, Ky.-based Humana warned that it now expects first-quarter earnings of 44 cents to 46 cents per share, down from prior guidance of 80 to 85 cents per share. Humana also downgraded its full-year profit forecast to $4 to $4.25 per share from its previous outlook of $5.35 to $5.55 per share.
Humana attributed the revision to higher-than-expected claims in its stand-alone prescription drug plan (PDP).
In a conference call with analysts and the media, Humana president and chief executive officer Michael McCallister said, "We detected higher-than-expected (prescription drug) claims."
James Murray, chief operating officer of Humana, said the company’s lower customer co-pays resulted in the firm absorbing $160 million in additional prescription drug costs.
McCallister and Murray predicted the incorrect actuarial assumptions will be corrected for 2009.
Humana’s announcement came one day after Wellpoint’s stock fell by more than 28 percent. Indianapolis-based Wellpoint, which operates Wisconsin Blue Cross & Blue Shield, cut its full-year earnings forecast to a range of $5.76 to $6.01 per share from its previous forecast of $6.41 a share.
WellPoint attributed its lower profits to several factors, including medical costs, lower fully insured enrollments and an overall weak economy.
"We are making these revisions to our prior earnings guidance due to higher than expected medical costs, lower than expected fully insured enrollment and, to a lesser extent, the changing economic environment in which we are operating," said Angela Braly, president and chief executive officer of WellPoint. "While we are disappointed with having to revise our 2008 outlook, we are still expecting growth this year, with record levels of membership, revenue and earnings per share. We are taking actions and making investments in our business to further improve our performance during the balance of this year and beyond."

Fiserv subsidiary launches cell phone banking technology
Information Technology Inc. (ITI), a business unit of Brookfield-based Fiserv Inc., announced recently the launch of Premier Mobile Banking, an integrated mobile banking solution that gives customers the convenience of managing their accounts anytime and anywhere.
Operating on a browser embedded in handheld devices, the product is both carrier-independent and compatible with any web-enabled device. Banking customers are able to check account balances, view recent transactions, receive alerts and transfer funds between accounts in real time with their cell phone or PDA.
Consumer demand for banking services using cell phones and PDAs is rapidly increasing. The newest form of self-service banking is intended to give financial institutions a competitive advantage, helping them acquire and retain customers, especially the younger consumers who lead the market in demand for mobile services.
"This technology was specifically developed for our community bank clients to help them expand their offerings and compete effectively against even their largest competitors, and more than two dozen have already licensed this innovative product," says Tom Cypher, ITI president and chief executive officer. "About 83 percent of Americans now subscribe to a cellular phone service, and Fiserv ITI intends to deliver even more opportunity and value to financial institutions by capitalizing on this important service channel."

Free turnaround advice available for small businesses
Free professional turnaround consulting is available for qualified nonprofit organizations and small for-profit businesses experiencing serious financial, operational or other problems in Milwaukee.
The free service is provided by the Chicago Midwest Chapter of the Turnaround Management Association.
To be eligible, organizations within two hours drive from Chicago, must have an agenda that is neither political nor religious and have annual revenues of $3 million or less.
For more information, contact TMA executive director Christine Glatz at (815) 469-2935.

Arizona office of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. makes splash
The Tucson, Ariz. branch of Sun Prairie-based Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation was named the 16th highest producing office of 100 offices nationwide, in its January listing. The Tucson branch has been open six months.
Fairway was ranked fourth in the nation last year among top brokers in terms of volume by Broker Magazine. Fairway closed $1.62 billion in loan volume in 2007, and has exceeded the one billion mark every year since 2001.

Guardian Credit Union introduces Guardian Mobile
West Milwaukee based Guardian Credit Union recently launched Guardian Mobile, which gives members the ability to use their cell phone or smart phone to access balance information, pay bills and transfer funds. This all-new mobile branch service is a is a simplified version of Guardian Credit Union’s existing Online Branch that has been reformatted to be used with mobile devices.  It is free to all Guardian members. 
Guardian Credit Union has branches in West Milwaukee, West Allis, South Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls, Waukesha, Oak Creek and Racine.

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