The path to affluent clients has always been through personal contact or referrals. But as the pool of wealthy consumers grows larger, sophisticated marketing, driven by new technology, has become so pivotal that it's naive for any bank to believe it can stake out a sizeable portion of the affluent market without it.

In 1996, there were 11.8 million affluent households with annual incomes above $100,000. Recent statistics indicate that the number of affluent households will reach 16.9 million by 2000 and 25.7 million by 2005. "The key to the affluent market is effective cross-selling, and a separate division is essential," says John DeMarco, svp and director of affluent market research at PSI Market Research in Tampa.

DeMarco says that these divisions should sell loans, mortgages, mutual funds, brokerage services, personal trusts, annuities and insurance. The trick, he says, is in achieving a truly integrated organization to reduce marketing costs.

The trend to create separate private banking divisions is gaining momentum; Key Bank in Cleveland, Harris Bank in Chicago, First Union in Charlotte and Fleet Bank in Boston have all formed private banking divisions. The most recent move is by Riggs National Corp. in Washington, D.C., which has restructured its trust and investment management services into a single unit, Riggs & Co., to make it more visible to well-heeled residents.

Key Bank evp Dan Klimas says that databases are essential to keep client information current and to match each client with appropriate services: financial or estate planning, complex loans and mortgages, or investment and insurance needs. Key Bank's PrivateBank serves affluent individuals, families and foundations. Customers can access their PrivateBank accounts electronically. "We are working on a couple of initiatives that will give clients multiple ways to access information and process transactions."


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