Glenmede Trust Co., a small banking company with a conservative reputation, will be trying out a corporate strategy that sounds more New Age than old money.
Philadelphia-based Glenmede, which provides wealth management services to institutions and high-net-worth individuals, has hired a vice president of knowledge-based marketing.
"Knowledge management," which has come into vogue over the past couple of years, involves using information about clients and competitors to devise new products and strategies.
That sounds a lot like marketing. But knowledge management entails methodically gathering information and using it to design products tailored to clients' needs.
Patricia C. McCrossan, 42, stepped into the newly created position Feb. 22. She will use client information to develop new products and marketing strategies.
She reports to executive vice president and chief operating officer A.E. Piscopo.
"The overall mission is enhancing the client experience," Ms. McCrossan said. Glenmede hopes doing so will keep it competitive, she said.
Ms. McCrossan was a managing director in charge of marketing and strategic planning for the wealth management arm of PNC Bank Corp. in Pittsburgh.
PNC has $68 billion of assets, and Glenmede manages about $18 billion. Ms. McCrossan said she was initially surprised that a company of its size - and with its reputation - would want a knowledge officer.
"As an outsider, I thought they were fairly stodgy," Ms. McCrossan said. "But the reality is, they're pretty cutting-edge and strategic."
Ms. McCrossan's initial attack involves sending surveys to all of Glenmede's clients, gathering information on its top competitors, and setting up an internal Web site where employees can post ideas, questions, and information about other banking companies.
Glenmede will then start to develop products and services to fill any gaps and look at ways to repackage existing services to make them attractive to more kinds of customers, Ms. McCrossan said.
For instance, Glenmede will look for ways to tailor products and services to specific client groups, such as business owners and female professionals, she said.
The idea is to target the banking company's efforts more effectively, Ms. McCrossan said.
"We want to stay competitive and innovative, but we can't do everything. We don't have the resources or people," she said. Knowledge management will allow employees "to be very strategic about the decisions they make," she said.
Many of the largest U.S. banking companies have a knowledge manager or its functional equivalent, observers said. But David Ross Palmer, a consultant with Northbrook, Ill.-based LoBue Associates Inc. said it was an unusual move, and a good one, for a company like Glenmede.
"It's a sign of Glenmede wanting to become increasingly professional in its marketing and more customer-oriented," he said.
Marketing at all sorts of firms has evolved from developing products that are good for the company to developing products that meet customer needs, but many banks have been slow to adapt, Mr. Palmer said.
"One reason brokers are competing so effectively with banks these days is that they've been professional marketers since the early '70s," he said.