A SEASONED BANKER with a flair for unusual publicity tactics has been hired by Miami's Capital Bank to grow its private banking unit.
Samuel W. Gentry Jr., believes he can double private banking assets under management by the end of 1994. If the bank hasn't reached that target by then, he said, "you'll hear a very sad voice if you call me."
The $1.2 billion bank has $100 million of international private banking assets under management. Mr. Gentry is developing a plan for a new domestic banking unit.
Mr. Gentry, whose last banking job was with Miami's Southeast Banking Corp. before First Union Corp. acquired it in 1991, plans to use relationship managers -- point people who introduce clients to product specialists -- to improve service.
"Currently, our customer has to go all over the bank" for services, Mr. Gentry said.
Aside from a commitment to relationship management, Mr. Gentry also brings a willingness to try unusual tactics to sell the bank's private services.
In Miami, Mr. Gentry is well known for the year he spent introducing a weekly classical music program featuring the conductor of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra.
Sponsored by Southeast's private banking unit, the program was titled Southeast Musical Feast and aired for an hour every Monday night. It was a natural way to promote Southeast's private banking services, he said, because opera aficionados include a fair number of potential clients.
Mr. Gentry said he may try similar ways of promoting private banking services at Capital Bank. "The only image advertising I see doing is participating with the arts and the not-for-profits," he added.
Mr. Gentry's appreciation of opera was an acquired taste.
"I must say that in my mid-20s I though opera was for the birds," he confessed.
His opinion changed more than two decades ago, when he was dragged to a performance of La Boheme in New York City. Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo impressed the young banker. "I was astounded by the clarity of the music projected to an auditorium without any help." he says.
In the intervening years, Mr. Gentry has become a self-proclaimed opera buff.
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Capital plucked Mr. Gentry away from Corporate Management Advisors Inc., where he had been chief administrative officer since leaving Southeast.
From 1978 to 1981 he was treasurer for Ingalls Iron Works Co. From 1967 to 1978 he had worked for First National Bank of Birmingham/AmSouth.
While the nonbanking jobs were educational, he said he's ready for the challenge of growing Capital's private bank.
"After 25 years in banking I missed it greatly," he said.