How far have banks come in making brokerage an integral part of their business?
Not far enough, according to 50 bank brokerage chiefs who attended an American Bankers Association conference here last week. They said employees in more established areas of the bank - such as trust and private banking - still view brokers as upstarts, and that means banks end up missing some sales opportunities.
"We've got to get our people to look at all products and to stop being territorial, but I don't think we've passed that point yet," said Randall Church, vice president of institutional sales for First Security Bank of Utah, Salt Lake City.
One brokerage executive in the audience lamented that his bank's management doesn't "even want to tell us where to go within the bank" for trust services and traditional bank products.
Some executives warned that banks could see a significant drain of talented brokers in years to come. "It could be disastrous," said J. Peter Benzie, president of Chase Manhattan Investment Services. "Practically speaking, when brokers leave, their accounts go with them."
Sometimes bankers have to go to extreme measures to get the message out to brokers and bank employees, said W. Anthony Turner, national sales manager for First Union Brokerage Services. At a workshop on communication, he urged his audience to "change people's attitudes, and get their attention any way you can."
For First Union Corp., that meant having president John R. Georgius ride onstage astride a Harley Davidson - in full biker regalia - at a sales seminar. "That got their attention," Mr. Turner said.
For many bankers, the securities sales management conference is the social event of the year, attracting the upper echelons at bank brokerages nationwide.
The conference sprang from an event once sponsored by the Dealer Banks Association - a defunct trade group for banks in the securities business that was known for its high-powered presentations.
The trip to Florida in the middle of January has always been a draw, and this time around, it was a particular pleasure: While a third of the country was gripped in ice last week, temperatures at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa hovered around 78 degrees.
At least one brokerage chief trudged through two feet of snow to open shop last week before coming to Florida for the conference.
"When customers call to sell their stock they don't give a hoot about the weather," said Christine T. Baldonieri, manager of brokerage services for S&T Bancorp, Indiana, Pa.
Amy J. Errett, chairman of the San Francisco-based Spectrem Group and a featured speaker at the conference, cut short a question and answer session to hit the golf course.
But before heading out, Ms. Errett got the crowd muttering when she said banks will need at least $10 billion of mutual fund assets to be successful, and at least $75 billion to be a fund industry leader. Right now, only about eight banks have hit the $10 billion-asset mark.
"This business has become a game of scale, where the only place you can differentiate yourself is in the value you add," Ms. Errett said.