New Jersey's Commerce Bancorp has a whopper of a business strategy- borrowed straight from Burger King.
Commerce chairman Vernon Hill is also a Burger King franchisee and runs the businesses the same way. The banking company has become "the epitome of a customer-focused retail organization," said Cassandra Toroian, a banking analyst at Ryan, Beck & Co.
"The unique strategy continues to bring in customers in droves," she said, producing growth rates above its peers'.
The "have it your way" approach to banking keys on continually building brand awareness, emphasizing convenience, and offering top-notch customer service, said Ms. Toroian, who recently issued a "buy" rating on Commerce's stock.
Mr. Hill keeps branches open seven days a week and offers an on-line home banking package, Internet banking, and 24-hour-a-day bank-by-phone services. The approach is akin to the convenience, quickness, and quality espoused by the Burger King organization, including the 45 franchises Mr. Hill owns in the Philadelphia area, Ms. Toroian said.
Also like Burger King, which sends employees to its own "university" to learn the ways of retail selling, Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Commerce operates a school for new employees.
Shares of Commerce rose 56.25 cents Friday, to $59.25, as part of a broad market rally that ended four straight days of sliding by financial institution stocks.
The Standard & Poor's bank index gained 0.68%, and the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.87%. The Nasdaq bank index rose 0.54%; the S&P 500, 1.19%.
April jobs data fit this year's trend of slower payroll growth than in the last half of 1997, helping to fuel the rally, market strategists said. And there were signs of weakness in the manufacturing sector.
Bank stocks were aided by that information, which suggests less pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.
"If anyone can make any case at all that interest rates don't have to rise, the market will support bank stocks," said John MacNeil, equity strategist at Salomon Smith Barney.
Still, he cautioned that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan continues to cast a very wide shadow over bank stocks. "As long as the Fed is in the picture, I don't know how sustained the rally can be," Mr. MacNeil said.
"The Friday factor," in which banks jump on hopes of a merger jelling over the weekend, also played a role in the rally, said Michael L. Mayo, a banking analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston.
Wells Fargo & Co., which jumped the first Friday in May, was up again, by $4.4375, to $369.4375, after hitting $374 earlier in the day.
Market watchers were also monitoring First American Corp., up $1.25, to $48, on heavy volume.
"A takeover would be icing on the cake to a good fundamental story" at the Nashville banking company, Mr. Mayo said.