J.P. Morgan & Co. has turned to chilled Pellegrino and free Internet access as the latest way to pitch its private-client business.
The banking company is billing two new offices - one opened officially Thursday in New York and the other opened last month in Boca Raton, Fla. - as places where private banking customers can do their own business away from home, seek financial advice, or simply find "a quiet sanctuary."
The offices are equipped with computer terminals, fax machines, phones, Internet connections, and private meeting rooms. They also have libraries and financial news and research services such as Bloomberg. Snacks are available.
Like other traditional private banks, Morgan's is looking for ways to attract younger customers who tend to favor glitzy brokerage and online stock trading services such as those offered by rivals like Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co., or Charles Schwab & Co.
"Everyone's focused on the new wealth," said Timothy Vaill, chairman and chief executive officer of Boston Private Financial Holdings, the parent of 13-year-old Boston Private Bank and Trust. "You can't just produce products. You have to be a good quarterback."
Thus, Morgan has unveiled initiatives in the last year aimed at boosting business in its private bank. Though it once catered only to the richest of the rich, J.P. Morgan has been reaching out to the growing class of emerging and newly affluent people. New private Morgan banking offices have sprouted up in markets like Atlanta and Silicon Valley.
In March, the company introduced MorganOnline, a service that packages investment planning and advice, portfolio management, and full-service brokerage capabilities for a $2,500 annual fee.
The "resource centers" are just the latest development. "We're really reaching out to serve customers in a number of ways," a Morgan spokeswoman said.
Another center is to be opened at the end of May in Washington, D.C. The spokeswoman said Morgan would "very likely have a few" such offices opening in the next 18 months. She would not elaborate on how many.
Mr. Vaill of Boston Private said Morgan's centers are "an interesting idea" but not terribly different from the services his bank and others offer in their existing private banking offices. Boston Private Bank's three offices, for example, have living room areas where customers can hang out. "It gives them a feeling of comfort," Mr. Vaill said.
"We give our customers free Pellegrino, too, but we don't have offices that do just that," he said.