Bankers are revving up their marketing engines to prepare customers for a prolonged period of market turmoil.
Siggi B. Wilzig, chairman and chief executive officer of Trust Company of Jersey City, said this week's market plunge and subsequent roller- coaster ride should remind people to protect some of their savings.
Mr. Wilzig dug a favorite advertising campaign out of mothballs last April and has been running it ever since. The tag line advises customers: "Don't gamble with your retirement-stocks go up and down."
"The average American middle-class family has no business having most of their money in the stock market," Mr. Wilzig said. "Have one-third in the stock market, one-third in the bond market, and one-third in the bank."
Industry insiders said Monday's market correction could be the ideal opportunity to attract deposits after years of seeing customers take their money out of low-interest checking and savings accounts in favor of higher- yielding stock mutual funds.
"For banks over all this will mean lower interest rates and higher deposits, so it should be favorable," said L. William Seidman, the former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
A few weeks after the 1987 stock market crash, an FDIC survey found a substantial jump in bank deposits and general confidence among bankers, Mr. Seidman said. One-third of all banks and nearly 42% with more than $1 billion of assets reported "noticeably higher" deposits in the 1987 survey.
Mr. Seidman said he expects a similar shift this time. "It is likely some of the money that came out of the market will come into the banks."
Executives in charge of deposit products at many of the nation's largest banks said they saw no noticeable inflows into insured accounts this time around. But many said it was too early to gauge the long-term effect on deposits.
Money flowing into money market accounts-favored products for mutual fund investors who want to liquidate to cash temporarily-increased only slightly Monday, according to data provided by IBC Money Fund Report.
The newsletter estimated that money market accounts took in $6.2 billion-an increase of just over half a percentage point-the day of the 554-point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average, to $1.044 trillion in money fund assets.
"We didn't see a rush in," said Peter Crane, managing editor of IBC Money Fund Report. But, he said, sustained volatility could boost such funds. "Once the market stabilizes, investors will take some of their money off the table," Mr. Crane said.
Bankers said the relative calm this time could be the result of a combination of lower rates for certificates of deposit and money market accounts-compared with 1987-and a more informed investing public.
"It's going to be different because we're not in a huge rate environment," said Carol Gearan, senior vice president of deposit marketing for KeyBank USA, a direct marketing unit of KeyCorp in Cleveland. Ms. Gearan has not planned any special promotions.
"I think the gut reaction to get out (of the market) is diminished because in 10 years people have gotten very smart about mutual funds," she said.
Many executives at banks that range from $500 million to $336 billion of assets said they would adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the market turmoil and would not begin special advertising promotions for their deposit products.
"It's still pretty early to see an impact in the deposit products," said Kenneth L. Weinstein, senior vice president for deposits and investments at People's Bank in Bridgeport, Conn.
People's had an inflow of deposits to CDs Monday, Mr. Weinstein said, but he added that news reports of the market correction didn't reach most of those customers until later that afternoon. "I don't think they're related."
Mr. Weinstein said he expected to see a more dramatic impact in the coming weeks. "The initial impact with markets like this is that people move out into deposit products because they are thinking about safety."
People's is not planning any special promotions primarily because the market is still in flux, Mr. Weinstein said.
"It's hard to set a rate you want to stick to in this environment," he said. "We will wait for the dust to settle."
But some bankers are seizing the opportunity.
C. William Landefeld, president and CEO at Citizens Savings Bank of Bloomington, Ill., said he plans to run advertisements in local papers touting the advantages of certificates of deposit over stocks.
"With a CD you're guaranteed no loss of principal and all deposits up to $100,000 are insured by the FDIC," he pointed out.