Chase Manhattan Corp.'s chairman, Walter Shipley, will lead the cheers at a pep rally for 800 business bankers Tuesday and then charge out of the bank's headquarters and into entrepreneurs' offices.
As Mr. Shipley roams New York's garment district, Chase bankers in several states will be conducting a daylong series of sales calls designed to drum up small- and midsize business accounts.
"We still make house calls," said Frank Lourenso, Chase executive vice president for middle-market banking, who plans to personally call on at least six businesses.
The business sales blitz is an annual event that Chemical Banking Corp. began after it acquired Manufacturers Hanover in 1992 and continued after its merger with Chase last year. Such blitzes are an increasingly common method for merged banks to unite their staff and refute the notion that large banks are out of touch with their customers.
Chase bankers will make calls on 2,500 businesses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, as well as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Massachusetts, where its branch network is more limited.
"We wanted to send a message that a merger wasn't going to keep us from spending time in the marketplace," Mr. Lourenso said.
"It creates a tremendous sense of energy," said Charles Wendel, president of Financial Institutions Consulting in New York, who accompanied Chase bankers on sales calls last year. "It drums up business and the spirit and morale of the marketers."
And customers say that personal sales calls make a difference. Michael Marco, president of company that charters oil tankers, was looking for a new bank after he moved his offices from Manhattan to Long Island, and Chase was the most persistent.
"They expressed a real interest in us and followed up and followed up and followed up," Mr. Marco said. "We figured if they were that excited about us, we should switch to bank with them."
But some New York bankers, such as John C. Millman, president of the $707 million-asset Sterling Bancorp, tend to deride Chase's small-business sales blitz as a publicity stunt.
"It's cute," Mr. Millman said. "But I don't know how effective it is."
Other acquisitive banks, such as First Union Corp., have used similar blitz techniques to boost small-business accounts in new markets. Last month, First Union branch managers and business development officers spent a week calling on small-business owners in the Philadelphia area.
First Union's blitz continued a tradition started by First Fidelity Bancorp, the New Jersey-based bank First Union bought in 1995.
First Union uses the blitzes in the Northeast to educate its bankers. It cut its staff and centralized its small-business lending after it acquired First Fidelity, which served entrepreneurs through its branch network.
"Part of the focus is to demystify the process for the people who work in the branches," said William J. Dahms, First Union senior vice president and director of the small-business loan center in Philadelphia.
Mr. Dahms said First Union saw a 40% increase in loan applications during the week bankers met personally with entrepreneurs, accountants, and lawyers who help generate referrals.
Although face-to-face meetings might increase sales, they're also an expensive way to do business.
Chase reduces some of the costs by using telemarketers for initial phone calls and gathering financial information.
Bankers then follow up by bringing applications or taking financial documents in person to small-business owners with a need for banking products.