Borrowing a marketing tactic from some of the nation's largest banks, $8.5 billion-asset Sovereign Bancorp is hawking financial planning services over the Internet.
Visitors to Sovereign's page on the World Wide Web can calculate their retirement and education savings needs or walk through an asset allocation analysis. They can also read mutual fund performance reports, descriptions of annuity products, and weekly financial news.
"For an $8 billion bank to get on the Internet and immediately start with offering investment planning tools, that's real aggressive," said Les Dinkin, managing principal of NBW Consulting Group, Westport, Conn.
With the exception of giants like BankAmerica Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., most banks have flooded the Internet with what Mr. Dinkin has dubbed "vanity sites" - high-tech advertisements that offer little more than loan or deposit information.
But Sovereign, based in Wyomissing, Pa., took a more interactive approach. It is trying to attract customers in their 20s or 30s who rarely enter a bank branch or even bank over the telephone.
"We definitely want to have a delivery system for the younger people - to make them the future customers of the bank," said Jay Sidhu, Sovereign's chief executive officer. The 43-year-old CEO is an avid 'Net-surfer in his own right, having recently bought a Lexus after visiting a local dealership's Web page.
Mr. Sidhu said he is hoping the bank's site will turn up leads for the 25 investment representatives who work in Sovereign's branches. After doing research on the bank's page, customers are encouraged to contact the representatives electronically.
Set up last month, Sovereign's site can be entered at www.sovereign.com, the bank's Internet address. Visitors to the page are greeted by a colorful image of a big ice cream sundae, with the bank's name emblazoned above.
Clicking on any scoop of the sundae leads to a different bank offering. Those looking for financial planning services are instructed to go to the strawberry scoop.
"We wanted to make it fun and interesting," Mr. Sidhu said. "If its not eye-catching, people who surf the 'Net won't stop."
Sovereign offers its investment product services in conjunction with Marketing One Inc., a Portland, Ore.-based company that helps banks manage brokerage programs. Marketing One is supplying some of the information found on the financial planning segment of Sovereign's Web page.