KeyCorp chairman and chief executive officer Robert W. Gillespie's recoiled from the word "bank" in his keynote address at the Bank Administration Institute's Retail Delivery '96 conference.

Speaking to one of the largest annual gatherings of bankers, Mr. Gillespie called $65 billion-asset KeyCorp a "national consumer finance company" that operates KeyCenters, not branches.

He challenged other bankers to diversify their businesses and to break away from a business model better suited to the 1950s than the 1990s.

"What will replace that familiar and comfortable old 1950s model? ... A national, bank-based consumer and commercial financial services company," Mr. Gillespie said.

Quoting Edward E. Crutchfield Jr. of First Union Corp., Mr. Gillespie added, "The bank that thinks of itself as a bank is a dinosaur."

Observers said they were disappointed Mr. Gillespie's speech did not explore the strategy behind KeyCorp's planned elimination of some 280 branches.

Instead, Mr. Gillespie listed projects that should top the "to do" lists of retail banks. They were: establishing brand identities, segmenting customer bases, creating new expectations for employees, and making better use of alternative delivery.

The visual and audio components of Mr. Gillespie's presentation reinforced the idea that bankers must modernize their approach to the business.

Multimedia aspects of the speech included video clips and a "virtual reality tour" of KeyCenters and Web sites. In addition, Mr. Gillespie's introduction was set to the music of ZZ Top.

Time and again in his hour-long presentation, Mr. Gillespie encouraged banks to break from the past. He said marketing is one place to start.

KeyCorp, he said, has "replaced all those deadly, dull, boring, old bank brochures with colorful, engaging magazines that would compete well on any newsstand."

In addition, Mr. Gillespie said new advertisements for KeyCorp that feature "ER" star Anthony Edwards, "personify the trust and warmth that we want to establish for Key."

Only toward the end of his address did Mr. Gillespie speak of alternative delivery issues.

While stressing the need for more efficient delivery of banking services, he walked the crowd through KeyCorp's World Wide Web site, which he said is visited by 3.5 million customers per month.

Drew Clark contributed to this article.

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