WASHINGTON - Describing his vision of the future, NationsBank Corp. president Kenneth D. Lewis weighed in last week on the industry's consolidation, the importance of customer service, and the weight of technological advances.
"Now is the time for banks to go on offense," Mr. Lewis said in a speech here. "Every one of us in this room is aiming for a bigger wallet share,and if we want to be around in the year 2001, we have to start playing the game."
By 2001, Mr. Lewis predicted, a handful of banks, including the Charlotte-based giant, will operate nationwide while thousands of smaller institutions fill in niches.
Advocating NationsBank's aggressive approach, Mr. Lewis criticized the industry's complacency over the last few decades.
"Banks can no longer just exist on the corner and make loans and take deposits," he said. "That exact strategy cost us half the market share over the course of my career."
Banks, he said, must focus on consumer demands for convenience, on new products such as insurance, and on developing new delivery systems.
With information companies emerging as the industry's newest competitor, banks must learn to leverage customer data, according to Mr. Lewis.
"Customers give a lot of information when they open accounts ... Up until now, it has been wasted."
Banks must use this information to build binding relationships with their customers, Mr. Lewis said.
"We need to leverage all the available information to provide the right products to the right customers through the right delivery channel," he said.
Mr. Lewis said his favorite new channel of communication is interactive television, still in development.
"My bet is this will leapfrog many of the other channels," he said. "One reason is it transcends age groups: All ages know how to use a TV remote."
Mr. Lewis also criticized the industry's lobbying efforts.
"The banking industry is so fragmented when it comes to legislative agendas," he said. "If banks can't find some common ground and present a reasonable united front, we'll never achieve our legislative objectives."