Fleet Financial Group is trying to sell its small-business customers on the idea that good things come in packages.

With an eye toward securing customer relationships, Fleet is offering bundled products to its business clients and will expand its line this year.

"We can deepen our relationship with existing customers, have a better opportunity to retain those customers, and gain more profit opportunity from them," said Filomena Soyster, director of small-business banking at Fleet. "We have examples of customers opening six to 10 services at an account opening."

Fleet also is hoping that selling the bundle up-front will save the small-business owner precious time - and possibly aggravation, Ms. Soyster said. "You don't want the customer to come back four or five different times for products," she said.

The industry still has a way to go in offering bundled business accounts, according to a Payment Services Inc. survey Ms. Soyster cited in a speech to the Consumer Bankers Association's small-business banking conference last month. Only 28% of the 300 largest banks offered packages for small business in 1993, the survey found.

At banks that offer the service, only 16% of the business customers were buying, according to the survey.

Fleet began offering bundled products for small businesses a little over a year ago, Ms. Soyster said. Since then, about 15% of its 300,000 small- business customers - those with less than $5 million of sales - have acquired such accounts.

"We're still at the beginning," she said.

The bank began bundling products in response to customer demand, Ms. Soyster said. The move also was a logical offshoot of Fleet's consumer bundling program.

"Business customers behave very similarly to consumers," Ms. Soyster said.

The bundles vary according to the size and sophistication of the business, she added.

For instance, a basic package could include a checking account, a credit card or line of credit, a debit card, and AM Fax, which is Fleet's daily business deposit statement delivered by fax or electronic mail.

But businesses may demand more as time goes on.

"As the customer grows in size and sophistication, you have to look at more tailored and customized products," Ms. Soyster said.

By September, Fleet should have added employee 401(k) and payroll services to its bundled offerings, she said.

Rather than offering flat-out discounts to customers who buy bundled accounts - although there are promotional discounts - Fleet tries to add value, Ms. Soyster said.

For example, businesses that take Fleet's Corporate One relationship service can invest in a high-yielding money market account and get premium interest rates on certificates of deposit.

Businesses in the Corporate One plan typically keep balances of $38,000 or more, Ms. Soyster said.

The Corporate One service combines customers' checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, pension plans, and commercial loans in a single statement.

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