A spate of private banking advertisements gives rise to the question: Is a normally understated business staging a coming-out party?
For instance, the most recent issue of Forbes magazine includes a 10- page private banking supplement that hawks the services of Citibank, Union Bank of Switzerland, Republic National Bank, and U.S. Trust.
Union Bank also placed its ad in this week's New York Observer, a highbrow Manhattan weekly where other pitches from private banks have been spotted.
Ads have also been taken out recently in The Wall Street Journal by IBJ Schroder Bank and Trust Co., Glenmede Trust, and Rittenhouse Trust.
These ads all emphasize relationships, describing themselves with terms like "reassurance," "straight talk," "understanding," and "commitment."
A Republic National Bank ad in Forbes expounds on its "brand of financial conservatism: private banking built upon rigor, discipline, and prudence," and then proclaims, "and proud of it."
The bank doesn't see the advertising as an appeal business so much as an effort to reach out to its international clientele, said William Siegel, director of corporate marketing at Republic New York Corp.
" It's aimed primarily at our own current private banking clients, mostly international, since they don't see their private banking officers face to face often throughout the year," Mr. Segal said.
"We want to have some kind of a presence year-round that we are still in business. It's a way for us to keep our name out there in front of them," he added.
Although a general audience sees the Forbes ad, the campaign is not focused on just any new business, Mr. Segal said.
"There's a lot of funny money out there in the world. If somebody walked into our bank in Geneva with $10 million, unless he was referred by two or three of our other clients, then it's likely he'd be turned away," Mr. Segal said.
Unlike Republic, other private banks are actively seeking new business with ads that ask readers to contact specific officers or even simply request, "Please call me."
For instance, one ad portrays a man toting an attache case pausing forlornly at a fork in a wooded road.
The subject is pondering where to put $200,000 or more of his expendable assets. Presumably, it's high time he pick up his cellular phone and call a private banker.
In fact, the befuddled investor's portrait is centered in a letter from the private banking group at Chemical Bank, which took out a full-page advertisement in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine to promote its asset allocation account service.
That issue also contains an ad from Fidelity Investments Portfolio Advisory Services, which appeals to the same target group to let it "make the tough calls for your portfolio of $200,000."