As private bankers widen their product and service offerings, they are accounting for how profitable their sales efforts are.
Many banks, including PNC Bank Corp., Pittsburgh, are building vast data bases to discern how individual accounts and sales methods contribute to profits.
They are tabulating where exactly their units fit in the big picture of their banks' balance sheets. Private banking divisions at many institutions have become sales centers whose clients use various products from throughout a banking company: trust administration, investment management, deposits, checking, mortgages, and other loans.
In the past, individual products' profitability could be measured; typically, only a single division, such as a trust department was involved.
But since clients now use multiple services-as a result of more aggressive sales efforts-bankers are trying to figure who is profitable and who is a drag.
"I can pull up a screen on any client and get that information," said Arlene Yocum, a senior vice president of PNC's private bank. "One of the ways we use this system is on the sales and marketing front. When I am entertaining and making sales calls, am I touching the most profitable clients?"
Ms. Yocum, a regional manager in southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, made her remarks in a panel discussion at a conference in New York last week.
The meeting, titled "Capturing Emerging Affluent & Established Wealth Markets for Trust & Asset Management," was sponsored by Global Business Research.
Bankers should use their data to make sure clients pay for what they get, said another speaker on the profitability panel, David A. Hall, chairman of Financial Services Associates Inc., a consulting firm in Niles, Mich. Looking at accounts systematically, managers may decide to eliminate discounts on transactions.
"You don't have to charge a premium," Mr. Hall said, "but get them to pay what they ought to. Get them to a standard rather than an exception."
Ms. Yocum was not so sure. "Private banking by its very nature is individualized," she said. "How do you price that? It's not a commodity."
Audience members were warned that profitability information should not be used to devise compensation plans. Such plans could prompt account officers to sell products that are good for them but not necessarily for the client. Employees are likely to come up with ways to make themselves look more valuable.
"The banker could sell the client four $25,000 CDs instead of one $100,000 CD and then they would have a profitability ratio of four," said Peter Djokovich, president of Strategix Performance Systems, Salt Lake City.
Strategix Performance has built profitability data bases for five banks over the last six months, Mr. Djokovich said. The systems typically assess interest revenues and fees on accounts against costs, including compensation and marketing overhead.
To avoid misconceptions about the bank's motivation, PNC's year-old system is accessible by all private bank employees.
One flaw is that the PNC data base has yet to account for loans to small businesses, whose owners are often cross-over clients to private banking.
"That is a challenge and another limitation," Ms. Yocum said, "but what it has done is give us an opportunity to take a look at clients and get an idea of general revenue."