Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce expects to have remote banking centers in 133 Canadian supermarkets by the end of October through a joint venture with a leading chain.
The bank is not installing branches on the premises of its partner, Toronto-based Loblaw Cos.
Instead, "pavilions" in the stores will house collections of remote banking devices, including automated teller machines, personal computers with Internet access, and telephone stations.
"This is a remote banking service with a grocery-store base," said Janifer Lau, CIBC's director of finance, electronic banking.
Sales assistants are available to show how to use the remote devices, but they do not sell loans or open accounts, as those in more traditional supermarket branches do. CIBC expects customers to use Internet and telephone services from home once they have familiarized themselves in the stores.
So far the bank has installed pavilions in four stores, and kiosks or ATMs in 24 others, throughout Ottawa, in eastern Canada. Now the program is moving west.
President's Choice Financial, the brainchild of Loblaw, uses the same private-label brand name that appears on the chain's food products.
Loblaw officials decided that the convenience and low cost of a remote banking service would make it "a better way to deliver value to customers" than typical in-store branches, said Robert Almeida, the former Loblaw executive who is now president of President's Choice Financial.
The President's Choice Financial account offers free transactions, competitive rates, and the chance to earn points toward free groceries.
Loblaw solicited proposals from "seven to 10" North American banks that were interested in serving as distributors of the financial services. CIBC was the first chosen but is not an exclusive provider.
Mr. Almeida did not reveal the terms of Loblaw's agreement with the bank but said both parties "share in the value created."
In a move that some call clever and others say spells danger, Canadian Imperial is surrendering its own brand to tap the reputation of the President's Choice private label.
"Our customers all recognize President's Choice," said Ms. Lau. "It's an excellent partnership scenario."
The arrangement greatly expands CIBC's retail presence, as the bank "effectively has two distinct brands in the marketplace," said Les Dinkin, a director at Oliver, Wyman & Co., New York. "It's a tremendous way to generate potential incremental volume and fee income."
Kathleen McClave, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based consulting firm Furash & Co., said, "Retailers discovered a long time ago that multiple brands are a key strategy for penetrating markets."
Mr. Almeida said there are "phenomenal brands," such as Goodyear tires, that sell their products under private labels in addition to their own. "The question is, 'Do you want to play in both channels, or do you want to play in one?'" he said.
James Moore, president of Mentis Corp., Durham, N.C., said Canadian Imperial may be setting "a dangerous precedent." Loblaw can plug in the products of another bank, he said. "It clearly begins to position products based on pricing, as opposed to a level of service."
The bank's approach to branding is not a first. In the United Kingdom, Royal Bank of Scotland is distributing products under two strong consumer brands: Tesco, Britain's leading supermarket chain, and Virgin Group, the empire of the high-profile British entrepreneur Richard Branson.
National Commerce Bancorp. of Memphis this year launched First Market Bank, a fifty-fifty joint venture with Ukrop's Super Markets Inc. of Richmond, Va. First Market is essentially a new brand in the Richmond market, though closely tied with Ukrop's, in contrast to the 111 other store branches that National Commerce rents from grocers on its own.
"First Market Bank is synonymous with the Ukrop's brand," said James E. Ukrop, chief executive officer of Ukrop's and chairman of First Market.
John Presley, president of First Market, said the co-ownership arrangement has been more beneficial than the usual landlord relationships. First Market Bank has attracted $170 million of deposits in eight months, better than the $150 million attracted by National Commerce's best- performing in-store location in one year.
"With a joint venture, we get more cooperation from the store," Mr. Presley said. "They're interested in helping us build market share."
Ms. Lau would not reveal how many products Canadian Imperial has sold through President's Choice Financial, but said "customer interest is higher than we expected."
The bank intends to keep customers interested by closely monitoring which products they use and how they interact with the bank.
A data warehouse tracks whether customers choose the telephone, the Internet, or an ATM.
For example, if customers consistently bank over the Internet, Canadian Imperial wants to enhance the options available through that channel.
Within the next six months, the warehouse will measure the profitability of each customer with the aim of developing tactics to improve those returns.
"We need to know what customers we've attracted and what their channel preferences are, so we can cater the right products to the right customers," said Ms. Lau. "We want to build the future value of the customer relationship."
Canadian Imperial has invested about $5 million in its warehouse from Fiserv Corp.'s InformEnt division in Pittsburgh. Fiserv installed its hardware and software and manages the system remotely from a central facility.