Summit Bancorp of Princeton, N.J., is creating a division to tailor sales and marketing efforts to women and minorities.
The "growth markets" group will act as an in-house consultant, helping the leaders of lines of business identify prospects and develop appropriate marketing materials.
The group will do everything from data base research to cold calling, referring potential business to the appropriate salesperson, said Virginia Ibarra, executive vice president and head of diversity projects.
Ms. Ibarra, who will lead the group, reports to T. Joseph Semrod, chairman and chief executive officer. Ms. Ibarra will oversee executive vice presidents MaryLou Barreiro, Sy Henderson, and Kate Muldoon.
Like many other banks, Summit has long tried to tap into markets it has determined to be underserved.
First Union Corp., BankAmerica Corp., and Bank One Corp. have launched programs during the last two years to attract more female customers. Zions Bancorp. of Salt Lake City even has a women's banking center, staffed primarily by women.
Many banks have also launched marketing programs aimed at ethnic minorities.
BankAmerica named Grace Geraghty, a longtime executive of the San Francisco bank, to head its ethnic marketing program in 1996. A year later Bank One Corp. hired Jon Munoz from NationsBank Corp. to be its national Hispanic marketing director.
Consultants said such programs may be too broad.
"Is there enough commonality of need and attitude in these groups to make them worthwhile distinctions?" asked Peter Carroll, a consultant at Oliver Wyman & Co. of New York. "Just because you can define the group doesn't mean it's going to work out to be profitable."
Summit, which has $33 billion of assets, said women and minorities own 60,000 businesses in its core New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania markets. But more than 80% of the banking these businesses do is limited to low- profit deposit accounts, it said.
Ms. Ibarra said Summit will offer investment, insurance, consumer, and commercial credit products to expand those relationships. She said that targeted marketing programs may not have worked as well in the past because marketing across a broad range of banking services traditionally was difficult to coordinate.
"The plan now is to open up the services and involve every business and relationship officer in the process," she said.
Summit's new group will jump-start marketing efforts by offering workshops and seminars next month in Latino communities, Ms. Ibarra said. Similar workshops, for women, began last year.