It's annual report time.

Each day's mail brings more of these glossy tomes with pictures that make you feel the bank is worth billions of dollars.

Reading them, though, is something else.

When a bank has done well, it starts the report with fanfare and the data showing how much the gain has been in earnings per share-the only thing most readers care about, other than stock price.

When earnings have been less than satisfactory, the report usually starts talking about how "it has been a great year for reevaluation and positioning for the future," followed by a report on how well the bank has served its communities.

And I am sure most chief executives look at the mailing of the annual report as the conclusion of an unpleasant chore, like paying taxes or enduring gum surgery.

But what an opportunity is missed!

Your owners have a document in front of them that reminds them they have invested in your company. Equally important, it's an opportunity to remind these owners that they can give the bank more business and, in turn, earn more on their investment.

"Put your money where your money is," is a highly valuable slogan that works both ways: It can be used to remind shareholders that they should give their bank more business, and it can be used to inform depositors and borrowers that they can invest in the bank that serves them-something many just do not know. The statement stuffers are the best way of accomplishing the latter; the annual report can do a fine job on the former.

What more could a bank do in this regard? Here's one idea:.

I received my AT&T annual report and was idly turning the pages before relegating it to the circular file when, lo and behold, in the back cover, I saw a removable phone card good for 10 minutes of AT&T calling.

To the phone company this has practically no cost, and to me I could have bought the equivalent for $2.50. But it was something FREE and special for me. And naturally, the phone company hoped that if I like it, I would use their phone cards and other services on a regular basis.

Can a bank do something similar? Sure!

Suppose the annual report is accompanied by or includes a certificate good for 100 free checks, a chit good for one month of free banking or even a reduced rate on a loan if paid off automatically by funds transfer from a checking or NOW account?

The bank also could enclose a card that informs the shareholder that he or she is a special person, like a member of a frequent-flyer club, eligible for valuable perks.

How about a special phone number that gets priority answering and service?

Or, perhaps, a room with coffee and a place to sit and chat? (Banks in areas with high numbers of retirees find this is a super-appreciated service.)

These may be impractical suggestions, but the principle is valid. These readers of your annual report are the people who have put the greatest faith in your bank-they have no Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. protection and no assurance of getting their money back. They trust you and want you to succeed.

The annual report can be used to help glue the partnership of two groups with a common goal.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.