A savory brew of sales promotions, special services and technologies has helped turn Northern Trust into a major banking force in Florida, making it the state's third largest trust provider. But it's the bank's special blend of these three offerings that has made Northern Trust a winner.

An affiliate of Northern Trust Co. in Chicago, the Miami-based bank division, which only targets affluent clients for its private banking and trust and asset management services, has 23 facilities in Florida and plans to open another in the Doral area of Miami in June. "When we enter a new area, we try to project an image of Northern Trust as a bank of great quality and service," says Ray Marchman, svp and director of marketing. "We do advertising, and we do direct mail, but mainly we improvise opportunities to put our staff face-to-face with prospective clients."

Bank management pushes to give clients exactly what they want, whether it's more service or the technology that will deliver it. When it comes to electronic banking, "we're in tune with our customers," says Tammy Huff, vp of bank operations.

Along with PC banking, the bank's systems can now accommodate anchor accounts, where customers can consolidate savings, checking, CDs and money market accounts into one relatively high-interest account, as well as sweep accounts, where excesses in prescribed daily balances are swept into money market accounts electronically on a daily basis, giving customers higher yields. Nearly 60 percent of the deposits in the sweep accounts are from new clients or existing clients transferring balances from other banks.

Northern's electronic private banking services are delivered through a service bureau, M&I Data Services Corp., the Brown Deer, WI-based provider of computer processing services, because "we found it much less expensive to outsource," says Huff.

Optimizing a connection between private banking and business customers, the bank is also providing M&I-driven cash management systems to its corporate clients, installing the software and providing training at the sites so that firms can report transactions and balances and control disbursements electronically. "This business has tripled in the last year," says Huff. "We have a lot of law offices, doctors' offices and those kinds of businesses, and we've gained additional private banking business because we are offering something more to the clients."

The bank's trust side is rolling out a brand new service, giving clients the on-line ability to look at their investments with immediate posting of dividends and interest and allowing clients to print out statements. The bank eliminated security concerns by devising its own security software that limits access to any account to a client's private telephone line. Inside the bank, report writer software by SunGard Asset Management Systems of Birmingham, AL, gives Northern the capacity to analyze stocks and further customize client statements.

While touting the electronic benefits of banking with Northern, Huff insists that individual service has been key to success. "We have introduced a lot of things that are electronic-based, but we don't forget the concept of a private banker assigned to each account. Our people are dedicated to the personal touch," she says.

Northern has a stealth recruitment program, nabbing quality people who are socially and commercially connected and offering compensation in the upper 25th percentile-many come from competing institutions.

The bank further organizes cultural events to bring potential wealthy clients into bank facilities. These include group meetings on bank property with literary lions like Kurt Vonnegut and Alistair Cooke or TV personalities like Leslie Stahl and Charles Kuralt. The bank also sponsors theater events, such as a recent Jimmy Buffett musical at the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Northern's private banking division has nearly doubled its assets to $2.25 billion in three years. The bank's trust operation increased its assets 50 percent to $15.6 billion. According to Marchman, half of net income comes from private banking and the other half from the trust business, greatly reducing overall risk.

-peterson tfn.com

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