As its planned merger with Travelers Group gets closer, Citicorp said it and Travelers are already seeing favorable results from cross-selling experiments.
"The enthusiasm of the Travelers people to sell is very catching," said Thomas E. Jones, Citicorp's principal financial officer. "The more you dig and the more you look at opportunities, the more synergies you see."
Such sales synergies were touted as a major justification of the $70 billion merger plan that the two New York companies announced in April. Citicorp let the word out this week that they had begun to mine those possibilities even ahead of the expected closing of the deal in September.
On Wednesday, Citicorp and Travelers Group shareholders voted to approve the transaction. Federal Reserve Board and foreign regulatory agencies' approvals are still pending.
Citicorp revealed in its earnings report Tuesday that it has started to promote Travelers auto insurance to its credit card customers. Also, Citicorp's corporate bank has worked with Travelers' Salomon Smith Barney unit to raise capital for its clients.
Analysts said news of the cross-selling efforts demonstrates that executives at both companies have been working to smooth the transition to Citigroup, as the merged entity would be named. The $700 billion-asset financial services giant would compete in everything from banking to insurance to securities underwriting.
"Part of the issue is just how fast they can get out of the box," said Diane Glossman, an analyst at Lehman Brothers. "It will come down to execution."
"They don't just have ideas, they have specific plans," added David Berry, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. "Those plans are not necessarily live, but they are certainly deep into the planning process."
Citicorp purposely gave only sketchy details of its first cross-selling tests, said Mr. Jones. "There's no point giving the game away before we can play the game," he told analysts in a conference call.
Outside observers said the two companies are most likely engaging in the kind of cross-marketing typical of alliances between unaffiliated banks and nonbanks.
On the consumer side, Citicorp call center operators ask credit card customers if they are interested in auto insurance. Those who answer yes are transferred to a Travelers auto insurance call center, said analysts who have been briefed by Citicorp.
At the same time, representatives of Travelers' Primerica Financial Services unit are being trained to sell electronic banking accounts in markets where Citibank does not have a sizable retail presence.
In the corporate arena, Citibankers are likely to be introducing their Salomon Smith Barney counterparts to clients overseas.
"One of the things that is exciting about this merger is the ability to provide our overseas clients access to U.S. capital markets in a way we have been unwilling to build on our own," said John M. Morris, a Citicorp spokesman.
Analysts said corporate-side collaboration would provide the biggest initial impact at the combined company. "It will take longer to ramp up consumer efforts," Ms. Glossman said.
It is not unusual for merger partners to do joint marketing before consummating their transactions.
NationsBank Corp. teamed up with Montgomery Securities in this way before that San Francisco-based investment bank officially came into the fold last year. Bankers Trust Corp. and Baltimore-based Alex. Brown & Sons also worked together before their 1997 combination.
At Citicorp and Travelers, discussions among executives have generated a laundry list of potential revenue-generating ideas, observers said.
"All of a sudden you are hearing a much stronger drumbeat on the issue of cross-selling," said Lee Pomeroy, an executive recruiter in New York. "Once they got into it, they realized there was a lot more they could do."
Lawyers who specialize in regulatory issues said pre-merger co-marketing is common and often done at arms-length until regulators and shareholders give formal approvals.
"We're really testing within the limits of what's permissible," Mr. Jones said.