When the asset-backed securities market–the lifebloodof 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 asMasterCard and Discovery Financial Services ends.

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

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