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When the asset-backed securities market–the lifeblood of the credit card industry–froze up during the credit crisis, Alliance Data Systems was hit along with the rest of the industry. But that’s where Alliance’s similarity to competitors such as MasterCard and Discovery Financial Services ends.

Instead of hunkering down, conserving cash and riding out the storm as most others were doing, Alliance, which through its three businesses runs private label, co-branded credit card programs and loyalty rewards programs for such companies as Crate & Barrel, Ann Taylor and J. Crew, adopted a contrarian stance and looked to grow its business, thanks in large part to its treasurer, Robert Armiak.

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