Though volatile markets have driven some other retail brokerages to layoffs and pay cuts, FleetBoston Financial Corp.s freshly restructured Quick & Reilly Inc. is still aiming high.
Donald E. Froude, president and chief operating officer of New York-based Quick & Reilly, said he hopes to make it the largest and most significant part of the growth component of FleetBoston Financial.
Thats what Im building, Mr. Froude said, the growth engine for this company.
When Mr. Froude (whose name rhymes with cloud) joined Quick & Reilly last May, his mandate was twofold: Take advantage of the cross-selling opportunities created when Fleet bought the discount brokerage three years ago, and transform it from a transaction-based discounter into a more advice-driven entity.
At that time the cross-selling efforts of FleetBostons banking and brokerage units were less than stellar, primarily because of the mishmash of brokerage subsidiaries the company had inherited through its bank acquisitions. In addition to Quick & Reilly, which was bought in 1998, FleetBoston acquired four broker-dealers, each with its own products and investing style.
Meanwhile the bull market, which had driven profits at the brokerages, had begun to waver, and FleetBoston started to look at how its brokerage subsidiaries could succeed in the future.
Since then Quick & Reilly has been reshaped and given a new mission.
In May, soon after Mr. Froudes arrival, its senior management developed a customer-centered mission statement.
In August and September, FleetBoston merged its own brokerage force with the broker units it inherited from Bank of Boston, Shawmut National Corp., Connecticut National Bank, and National Westminster Bank, all under the Quick & Reilly umbrella.
FleetBoston is expected to complete its acquisition of Summit Bancorp of Princeton, N.J., on March 31. Summits broker-dealer subsidiary would be folded into Quick & Reilly.
Mr. Froude said market conditions are forcing Quick & Reilly to fundamentally change the way it does business. The unit still makes nearly 100% of its revenue from transaction fees a situation he seeks to change.
Weve had a difficult market the last six months, and we have to work within that environment, he said. The client doesnt see the value proposition in $14 trades anymore. Now people are saying: I need somebody who can help make my money grow.
And some changes have occurred: In October, Quick & Reilly introduced a managed asset account, which generated the brokerages first revenue from recurring fees. In March, Mr. Froude plans to introduce more managed and separate accounts, which will charge fees on assets under management as opposed to transactions.
Im hoping recurring revenues will far exceed what we get in the transaction business, he said.
But even with these products, Quick & Reilly still needs to change its fundamental culture, Mr. Froude said. To that end, it has invested heavily about $3 million, he said in educating its staff about its new customer-centric mandate.
Through all of this, the business is continuing to grow. Last years net income at Quick & Reilly/Fleet Securities Inc., the unit which includes FleetBostons clearing, trading and market-making activities, rose 26.2% from a year earlier, to $217 million, and revenue climbed 34.6%, to $1.174 billion.
About 27% of the revenues in each of those years came from retail brokerage operations, including SureTrade, a deep-discount Web broker based in Lincoln, R.I.
Mr. Froude said that he expects that retail brokerage percentage to grow in a few years time.
Observers say Quick & Reilly is taking the right tack, but success depend on improving the cross-selling between the new, improved brokerage and FleetBostons retail bank.
Nancy A. Bush, an equities analyst at Prudential Securities in New York, said that while Quick & Reilly is too small to drive the banking companys overall growth, it is certainly one of their growth businesses. The key to growth for any banking company is cross-selling between the investment business and the retail bank, she said.
The problem is that no banking company has done that well at it, Ms. Bush said.
Harry Milling, a bank stock analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, said the whole point of getting Quick & Reilly was that FleetBoston had the customer base, and Quick & Reilly offered an array of products.
FleetBoston needs to do more work to get the traditional retail customer to trade at Quick & Reilly, Mr. Milling said. When the market was going well, it was pretty easy to sign up people to trade. As the market turned south, Fleet was caught flat-footed. They werent really up to the challenge, he said.
Mr. Froude said that recent initiatives will change that.
On Dec. 1 FleetBoston began compensating its employees for cross-referrals, he said. Employees from other FleetBoston units are attending Quick & Reilly sales meetings, so that everyone in the company is on the same wavelength, he said.
In about three months Quick & Reilly will begin selling FleetBoston mortgages through its branches. FleetBoston is also marketing some of its private banking products and services to Quick & Reillys high-net-worth customers, he said.
Managers from FleetBostons Galaxy mutual funds group will work with Quick & Reilly to develop funds for Quick & Reillys clients, Mr. Froude said.
HomeLink, a Web banking service that shows customers all of their FleetBoston accounts, including checking and brokerage is expected to be a big driver of cross-selling, Mr. Froude said.
The Web service is currently the single largest source of new Quick & Reilly accounts in the Northeast, it generates about 15% of new accounts, Mr. Froude said. Currently 100,000 customers use the service to view their banking and brokerage accounts, he said.
Mr. Froude said he has no idea how many FleetBoston banking customers also use Quick & Reilly, or vice versa, since their data systems are not integrated. But he said he thinks the majority of FleetBostons investment-oriented banking customers those with $150,000 to $1 million of investable assets are likely to give the company their brokerage business as well.
Were not taking a broker-dealer and bolting it onto the bank, he said. Youre going to be dealing with one company. If you give the customer an easy way to manage all their assets at one time, in one place, theyre going to take advantage of it.
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