With fewer bank customers visiting branches, Keycorp's new brokerage chief will deploy the U.S. Postal Service and telecommunications systems to woo investors.
The Cleveland banking company will send customers half a dozen solicitations this year outlining the advantages of investment products, said Jack Kopnisky, who was recently named president of Keycorp Investments.
Later this year, Keycorp will supply discount brokerage services through a 24-hour phone line and offer investment product information through two- way video systems in kiosks, Mr. Kopnisky said.
The moves are Keycorp's response to customers' growing reluctance to visit the traditional delivery site for bank investment products.
"An increasing amount of customers don't have the time or interest to come into branches," Mr. Kopnisky said.
This spring's push is the first initiative from a new brokerage that was created by combining investment units that Keycorp and Society National Corp. operated before their merger last year.
As with other Keycorp units, the brokerage's mandate is to double its profits by 2000. Right now, the investment unit is producing about $14 million annually in fee income, a Keycorp spokeswoman said.
To be sure, Mr. Kopnisky - who ran Keycorp's Cleveland bank before being tapped for the brokerage - is not abandoning Keycorp's 1,300 branches. In fact, some of the plans are designed to bring people into Keycorp offices.
For instance, a mailing to 60,000 prospective IRA customers is urging them to meet with branch brokers to discuss mutual funds. And Keycorp is reaching another 30,000 branch customers by including investment product information in annual reports they received as holders of the banking company's stock.
Still, Keycorp does want its 275 sales representatives to spend much more time in the field, visiting customers in their homes or at their jobs. Mr. Kopnisky indicated there is plenty of opportunity in the approach, saying just 120,000 of the banking company's 3.4 million customers buy through the brokerage.
Industry experts say Keycorp, despite its large customers base, does have a tough job ahead of it. Banks are not know as very savvy marketers of any products, including mutual funds and annuities, said William D. Wilsted, president of the graduate school of banking at Colorado University.
Keycorp's plan will become irrelevant unless sales representatives "really recognize customers' needs and do lots of follow-up," Mr. Wilsted said.
Keycorp does intend to be very focused and attentive to customers, Mr. Kopnisky said.
For example, sales representatives in affluent areas will receive training in the kinds of products and services that wealthy people prefer, he said. Keycorp will take the same approach with representatives that have a lot of elderly middle-class residents or small businesses in their territory, he added.
The representatives will offer a range of annuities and mutual funds, including Keycorp's own Victory funds. Keycorp will also use the Victory funds in a wrap product planned for May. The product will "wrap" money management services around the funds to create portfolios that are continuously overseen, for a fee.
Mr. Kopnisky also expects Keycorp to soon hook into home computer banking to allow customers to easily access investment product information and, ultimately, make trades.
Mr. Kopnisky said the push is necessary to keep Keycorp competitive with other investment product purveyors.
"Unless we do this now, we will be behind the curve," he said.