Change and technology spending were two of the dominant themes at an investment conference here last week, sponsored by the Robinson-Humphrey Co.
Executives described how their banks were investing huge sums in new systems as the industry grapples with accelerating change.
"It's almost a daily revolution taking place out there on the streets," said James H. Blanchard, chairman and chief executive of Synovus Financial Corp., Columbus, Ga.
Synovus points to its 81% ownership of Total System Services Inc., the nation's second-largest credit card processing company, as evidence of its technological savvy. Mr. Blanchard devoted much of his presentation to a discussion of TS2, Total System's highly touted new software.
Mr. Blanchard predicted TS2 will give the company a significant technological edge over its competitors. He said BankAmerica Corp.'s adoption of TS2 is a sign of momentum.
Referring to Synovus' banking operations, which contribute 80% of the holding company's earnings, Mr. Blanchard detailed investments in a telephone call center, customer profitability files, and a platform automation system. He said Synovus, which has $8 billion of assets, will be aggressive in using alternative delivery channels such as personal computers, telephones, and direct mail.
He predicted that such alternative delivery systems will provide about one-fourth of the company's customer transactions within the next ten years.
Ernest C. Roessler, president and CEO of CCB Financial Corp., also devoted much of his talk to technology. He said the North Carolina bank, which has $5 billion of assets, will introduce a telephone banking service in the second quarter. It is also working on a data base marketing project, and plans to expand its supermarket branch network.
Mr. Roessler said one of CCB's main strategic thrusts is to exploit its existing customer base in its franchise area, one of the most attractive in the Southeast. CCB, based in Durham, is heavily concentrated in North Carolina's high-tech Research Triangle.
Executives from two specialty finance companies made presentations at the conference: prime auto lender Olympic Financial Ltd., and United Companies Financial Corp., which makes home equity loans to credit-impaired borrowers. Not surprisingly, both discussed credit quality and the state of the economy.
Noting that "delinquencies are a part of our business," Olympic Financial vice chairman Scott H. Anderson said he expected loans 30 days or more past due to increase from the 1.33% of the portfolio reached at yearend.
But Mr. Anderson went on to assure investors that Minneapolis-based Olympic Financial considered its $42.3 million reserve adequate to deal with future problems. Olympic Financial has a $2.3 billion servicing portfolio.
United Companies chief financial officer Dale E. Redman said the Baton Rouge, La.-based company believed that its centralized credit underwriting and collection system helped minimize loan problems. In the first quarter, the percentage of home equity loans more than 30 days delinquent at United Companies declined to 7.68% of the portfolio, from 8.15% at yearend.