NEW ORLEANS - Checking accounts are the most important tool in cross- selling to existing customers, according to an informal survey, though bankers say the products increasingly face pricing pressure.

Nineteen bankers attending the Consumer Bankers Association Small Business Conference this month responded to the unscientific survey conducted there by American Banker.

Nine bankers said checking accounts were the product most effective for cross-selling to existing customers. An equal number said they were likely to use checking accounts as loss leaders to win business.

These answers mirror the responses to a question asked in the survey about whether competitors were most aggressive on price or terms on certain products.

Again, nine of the bankers responding to the survey said price was where the competition for checking accounts was most keen. Price was the key factor in fee-income products for 12 of the bankers, while a mix of price and structure were most important on credit products.

The responses also ranked a line of credit as the most effective tool in gaining new customers.

This product also ranked as the second most effective cross-selling product and the second most likely product to be used as a loss leader.

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