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Providian buys GetSmart.com

The financial institution has agreed to acquire consumer lending site GetSmart.com for $33 million in cash.

In a bid to boost its online presence, Providian Financial has agreed to acquire consumer lending site GetSmart.com for $33 million in cash.

Under the deal, James Rowe, Providian's senior vice president, has joined GetSmart.com as its chief executive officer.

Providian provides loans and credit cards to more than 8 million customers and intends to use the acquisition to expand its business across the Internet. GetSmart.com, which has relationships with more than 100 lenders, will remain a standalone site.

In joining Providian, which has $14 billion in assets, GetSmart.com gains the financial strength and marketing expertise necessary to continue its rapid growth, GetSmart chief operating office Stephen Semprevivo said in a statement.

Financial strength is crucial to GetSmart.com, which needs help in competing against well-funded sites such as Microsoft's Home Advisor, Intuit, and Lending Tree.

According to Zona Research, Providian's move underscores the need for larger financial firms to buy into a long-term Internet strategy. The acquisition made sense now, Zona said, before GetSmart.com grew too large.