Southern National Corp. has trotted out a trio of certificates of deposit designed to appeal to consumers' most basic savings needs.
BB&T, Southern National's principal banking unit, last week introduced CDs that let consumers make early, penalty-free withdrawals to help pay for a house or to cover college expenses. It also rolled out a CD-based individual retirement account with a low initial deposit requirement.
The $20 billion-asset Winston-Salem, N.C., banking company said the new offerings are part of a broader effort to tailor products more effectively to specific customer needs.
"In talking with customers, we found it's easier for them to save when they have a goal in mind," said Sonia L. Beach, assistant vice president for product marketing at BB&T. "These products are positioned for people who don't have $5,000 to plop into a CD or $2,000 to put into an IRA."
All three products allow a modest initial deposit of $100. But customers must authorize subsequent monthly transfers of at least $50 from their checking or savings accounts.
Marketing consultant Kevin B. Tynan, who is based in Chicago, praised the bank for deftly segmenting its customer base with simple products that take their cues from common consumer life goals.
BB&T's college and home CDs are particularly "good examples of lifestyle marketing, which is the direction banks and savings and loans have to go in," Mr. Tynan said.
The College Saver CD, available at 36-, 48-, and 60-month terms, allows savers to make up to four penalty-free withdrawals a year for college expenses. Investors in the Home Saver CD, which has a 36-month maturity, can close the account before its term ends without incurring a penalty when they buy a home.
Those two CDs and the bank's monthly-saver IRA, which has terms ranging from 30 days to 60 months, feature the same bonus rates as conventional CDs with equivalent terms.
"I give them credit for their ambition," Mr. Tynan said, "but whether it has staying power will depend on how many people take them up on it."
Down the road, the bank may get additional business from people who, even after saving, need loans to meet their goals.
"Cashing in for a new home offers an opportunity for cross-selling a mortgage," said Anne Morgan Moore, president of Synergistics Research Corp., Atlanta. And most college students also need student loans, she said.
Although the CDs are new and have so far been advertised only through in-lobby promotions, BB&T is confident the products have a bright future.
"As long as those life goals don't go away, we think these products will be around," said BB&T's Ms. Beach.