Barnett Banks Inc. wants to be more than just a place where customers deposit money. So much so that some of its executives want to drop "bank" from its name.
"There is a perception that banks are places to maintain wealth, not grow wealth. We want to change that," said Peter Herlihy, director of mutual funds and annuities.
The company's metamorphosis into a full-service financial services provider began in May 1995 when it hired Richard H. Jones as chief asset manager.
The transformation continued in February when the Jacksonville, Fla., company dropped up-front fees. This set the stage for increased sales of its proprietary Emerald Funds, in addition to the 14 third-party fund families it sells through its Selectrack service.
But just making services and products available isn't enough. A marketing campaign was to begin this month, touting Barnett as a credible source of investment services.
Allen L. Lastinger Jr., president and chief operating officer, said Barnett wants to expand the asset management business in its existing markets, Florida and Georgia, as part of the company's overall growth strategy. Mr. Jones will lead the way.
Mr. Jones, who previously worked for Fidelity Investments and Fleet Financial, was hired "to integrate the products in that group so customers are dealing with a one-stop shopping experience," Mr. Lastinger said. "It is a significant piece of our banking market strategy."
All retail lines of business - including trust, brokerage, and traditional bank businesses - report to Mr. Jones. This helps avert the traditional battle between deposit and investment departments, particularly as the investment business grows, he said. About 40% of Barnett's bottom line comes from departments that report to him.
"As long as they do business with Barnett, it doesn't matter" whether customers deposit money or buy certificates of deposit or mutual funds, Mr. Jones said. "It only bothers us if customers take their money elsewhere."
But customers must first think of Barnett as a place to go for all their financial needs, Mr. Lastinger said, and not just as a place for checking accounts and deposits. Part of the strategy is to build name recognition in the investment business.
"One way would be not to have 'bank' in our name," Mr. Lastinger said, "because sometimes the word 'bank' complicates that." Barnett hasn't acted on the idea but is considering it, he said.
In creating a one-stop financial shop, Mr. Jones said, he wants to increase penetration of the customer base to 10% by 2000, from 3% today.
Mutual fund sales make up half of Barnett's brokerage business, and the Emerald group has 5% of the fund sales total. By the end of 1998, Mr. Jones said, he wants to increase Emerald's share to 30%.
To get there, Mr. Herlihy, the investment products chief, who was hired in March, is rolling out a marketing program that includes newspaper ads supported with direct mailings.
The first ads will promote the company's general investment capabilities. Later this year, ads will become product-specific, starting with the 13 Emerald funds.
Mr. Herlihy who, like Mr. Jones, earlier worked at Fleet and Fidelity, plans first to boost Emerald Fund sales within Barnett's customer base. Later, he said, he will focus on distributing the funds nationally.
Mr. Jones said that making the Emerald Funds no-load was the first step toward eventually distributing them through one of the popular no-load fund supermarkets, such as Charles Schwab & Co.'s OneSource.
The no-load strategy is unusual for banks, said Joy P. Montgomery, a consultant at Money Marketing Initiative, Morristown, N.J.
"It's a completely different line of business than what banks are used to doing," she said. But hiring Mr. Jones bodes well for Barnett, she said, because of his experience at Fidelity.
The bank has plans to increase its brokerage business, too. Its executives all say the way to do this is to focus on customer service without pushing specific products.
"We have to be more proactive than we've been in the past," Mr. Herlihy said.
Laptop computers help Barnett's brokers analyze a customer's needs and recommend products, said Robert K. MacKenzie, president and chief executive of Barnett Securities Inc.
Mr. MacKenzie said he plans to increase his sales force to 500, from 130, in the next two to three years. He currently oversees 36 investment offices, but that could change, he said, depending on market growth. Investment offices are usually near a bank branch or right next to one.
Selling third-party products in addition to proprietary funds will help Barnett increase its business and allow it to offer customers a variety of investment strategies.
Barnett started selling Alliance Capital Management mutual funds this summer. Richard A. Davies, senior vice president of New York-based Alliance, said Barnett is a logical vehicle for entry into the large and lucrative Florida market.
"Barnett is very well positioned there," he said, "and we want to be part of it."
Unlike many banks, it understands the need to maintain rapport with Alliance in order to preserve the partnership. "Some banks approach the relationship like: 'How much can we get from the mutual fund vendors,' " Mr. Davies said.
In addition to mutual funds, Barnett plans to sell more insurance and annuity products. Mr. Lastinger said it has been committed to building insurance sales since the March Supreme Court ruling affirming national banks' right to sell insurance from towns with fewer than 5,000 people.
The company has revamped its annuity sales program to build that business.
This year, Barnett selected annuity products it would sell and in June retrained its 220 annuity salespeople, Mr. Herlihy said. The bank's annuity sales target for next year is 20% of all investment product sales, up from less than 10% today. Annuity sales doubled in July and held up through August, he said.