Chase Manhattan Corp. has introduced an investment service for small businesses and their proprietors.
The Chase small-business investment services unit offers financial planning, retirement services, and investment products to Chase's small-business clients - generally, companies with annual revenues of less than $3 million - and their proprietors.
The idea is to cross-sell investment products to small-business customers and to "do it in a consultative approach," said K.S. Ramdas, the senior vice president who heads the unit. "That makes for a much stickier relationship," he said.
Chase's small-business relationship managers refer customers to an investment team of financial managers, brokers, and retirement sales specialists who will work exclusively with small-business clients.
The banking company established the first such team this March in Manhattan and plans to add teams throughout the New York metropolitan area and in Texas by the end of June, Mr. Ramdas said.
By yearend Chase will have about five investment teams, ranging from four to 10 people, and expects eventually to have 30 to 35, Mr. Ramdas said.
Chase also plans to expand the range of services offered. Near-term initiatives include a small-business version of Chase's asset management account, which combines checking and brokerage services, and a co-branded retirement plan, Mr. Ramdas said.
The company is negotiating with third-party plan providers, he said, though it is too early to name them.
Like many banking companies, Chase already offers similar services to its larger commercial customers. "The ability to migrate [investment services] to the small-business level is what sets us apart," Mr. Ramdas said.
Chase is not alone in targeting investment services to small businesses, said J. Mark Naber, a managing director at Optima Group Inc., a consulting firm in Fairfield, Conn. Fidelity Investments in Boston, for instance, has marketed 401(k) plans to small companies for more than a year, he said.
"Banks in general have done a suboptimal job of pursuing small and medium-size businesses," Mr. Naber said. Bank executives, he said, however, are starting to realize "there are a lot of opportunities to build profitable relationships with smaller customers."
In addition to cross-selling opportunities, banks can "grow" with small businesses, and entrepreneurs make valuable private banking clients, he said.
Mr. Ramdas agreed. "There is as much opportunity or greater on the personal side than on the business side of things," he said.
Mr. Ramdas said Chase will market the service to its 300 small-business clients, and he predicted that 25% of them would be using it within a year.