Signet Banking Corp. is hoping to build brand recognition for its investment expertise by riding piggyback on one of the biggest names in investment advice.
Louis Rukeyser, the host and reigning punster of public television's "Wall Street Week," was expected to provide the sizzle at an investment seminar Saturday sponsored by the Richmond, Va.-based banking company.
Billed as the "Great American Investment Conference," the meeting at a hotel in Crystal City, Va., a Washington suburb, was expected to draw an audience of more than 1,700.
Signet's bank and brokerage units sponsored the invitation-only event to boost the company's profile among investors and to learn more about them, executives said.
"We want to position Signet as more than just a bank," said Carroll D. Swenson, vice president at Signet Financial Services. "It's a place to come for world-class quality investments."
Signet mailed invitations to more than 40,000 of the roughly 150,000 bank customers who live within about an hour's drive of Washington, Mr. Swenson said.
The list was of customers who the bank expected would be receptive to investment information. Net worth, while important, was not the only factor considered, Signet executives said. Mortgage, credit card, and loan relationships were also used to gauge receptivity.
Admission was free, but the bank included a one-page questionnaire as part of the registration package and expected to use the results to understand its target market better.
"We want to identify who's who ... and what the appropriate delivery channel" for bank investment products and services is to them, said Robert C. Foregger, a direct marketing specialist at Signet.
The stock market's recent hiccups may have predisposed customers to be receptive to the bank's pitch.
"Their timing is impeccable," said Gerard T. Morda, a former banker who is now a financial planner at Financial Planning and Management, Boulder, Colo. Customers "may be having second thoughts now about whether their investment strategies are appropriate."
Signet declined to disclose the cost of putting on the seminar, but Mr. Swenson conceded that it was "rather expensive."
Mr. Rukeyser's going rate for a two-hour appearance is $35,000, said an executive at a Washington-based speaker's bureau, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"It's probably cheaper than putting a full-page ad in the Washington Post," she added.
That would be true of the Sunday edition, in which a full-page ad would cost an advertiser like Signet $35,613.60. But on weekdays, a full-page ad in the Post costs $26,228.40.