When Angela Lee went looking for a new checking account, she was stunned to find a bank that actually catered to her, a woman going through a divorced.
The last place the 33-year-old secretary expected to find solace was a bank - an institution not typically known for warmth or concern over customers' personal lives.
But St. Louis-based Roosevelt Financial Group Inc. is trying to change that image - and pick up a few customers along the way - with a program called New Start.
The month-old checking and savings program is primarily a marketing push. There's no favored pricing for divorcees. However, if customers have credit problems, the thrift will help them get loans, assuming collateral is available.
The program includes coupons for discount credit reports, three-month free trials of telephone bill paying, and a free box of checks. A list of books about divorce, including one written by children's television personality Fred Rogers, is also provided.
The information is made available at bank branches and through a network of divorce attorneys, mediators, and marriage counselors.
"This is a different segment of the population," said Anat Bird, Roosevelt's chief operating officer. "We'd expect there are some issues we would work with."
New Start's promotional materials are illustrated with a sunrise over mountains. The packet contains a list of area divorce lawyers, marriage counselors, and support groups, in addition to information about bank accounts.
Ms. Bird, who divorced more than 10 years ago, said many people change checking accounts when they end their marriages, and her company wants the business. There are other products - such as credit cards and home banking - that $9 billion-asset Roosevelt wants to sell through the program.
Ms. Lee, who is ending a 12-year marriage, said she's applied for a line of credit and a credit card and plans to open a safe deposit box.
The campaign is marketed through divorce lawyers and marriage counselors. Ms. Bird said a "few thousand" packets were printed. "We're not direct-mailing anyone who gets divorced," Ms. Bird said.
Gary Bickham's name appears on the list of divorce lawyers that Roosevelt provides. In turn, he hands out the thrift's packets to his clients. He praised the program and said he's never seen anything quite like it.
"Banks usually are not very personal," Mr. Bickham said. "You go in and say, 'I'm recently divorced,' and they say, 'What do you want me to do for you?'"
Analyst Joseph Stieven of Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. in St. Louis called the program "pretty catchy," but said the "impact on the bottom line will be between slim and none."
Ms. Bird didn't have exact numbers on New Start accounts, but she estimated that "several hundred" had been opened. She also said she believes the program is being well received.
"We had a customer who opened an account and cried throughout the whole process," Ms. Bird said.