Customers at Premier Bancorp are receiving sophisticated asset allocation services and personal touches like birthday greetings from a computerized selling program at the Baton Rouge banking company.
The initiative, in which mutual fund salespeople are armed with laptop computers and a battery of software programs, was introduced six months ago by GNA Corp., the Seattle-based marketing company that runs Premier's investment product sales program.
The system collects customer information and mixes colorful graphics with financial projections to illustrate a variety of applications for investment products.
The program also handles bookkeeping tasks and can issue thank-you notes and reminders about customers' birthdays, so sales representatives can send a card.
The self-contained system "gives our people the ability to handle a lot of matters quickly and completely," said Richard White, senior executive vice president at Premier.
The program, first rolled out through eight Premier representatives, is slated to expand to 10 times that number by yearend, Mr. White said.
Martie Richmond, based in Premier's home office, is in the initial group.
Customers "really like it," she said. "The program's graphics and product information appeal to them."
Ms. Richmond added that GNA's technical group has been quick to work out kinks.
For instance, the asset allocation program offered a wide array of investment options, a range that has now been narrowed to avoid customer confusion.
GNA is preparing to offer the laptop service to other client banks.
Financial institutions whose programs are managed by GNA do not pay a fee for the equipment.
GNA, a unit of GE Capital, doesn't mind footing the bill, believing that improvements in productivity will outweigh project costs.
The system "makes representatives out there more efficient and more organized," said Patrick Rowe, a sales executive at GNA.
Mr. Rowe added that "representatives have been faster to embrace it than we first anticipated."
GNA is not alone in its efforts to equip sales representatives with high-tech systems to modernize and improve responsiveness to customers' needs.
But the GNA system is more sophisticated and offers a fuller range of services than many others, one banking consultant said.
"If in fact the GNA system works the way they claim it will, it will be an enormous boost for the company," said John Philip Sousa, 4th, president of Investment Program Management, Westlake Village, Calif.