The fact that 15 financial institutions came in to address Ryan Beck & Co.'s annual financial institution investors conference shows the potential of such dog-and-pony shows.

The 15 sent their chief executive officers to talk about their institutions, and they gave those attending so much printed information on their operations that any guest taking all of it home would be an immediate candidate for back surgery.

The more acute bankers showing off their stuff well know that any hype that can raise their stock's price in the market is a short-run development.

A Wall Street house will tout your bank today, and that will lead to a quick price advance. But when the juice is out of the run-up, the investment firm is going to turn elsewhere for new banks to promote, and the stock price is likely to back down to where it was before the hype, or close to it.

This is why Ryan Beck, in sponsoring its annual conference for institutional investors and analysts, looks at it less as an exercise in marketing and more as an opportunity to gain long-run recognition. What makes this significant is that if Ryan Beck distributes securities for the banks later on, their names will be better known to investors, and the job will be easier.

What did those at this year's conference glean from it?

Of course, they were overloaded with data on how each of the 15 banks is doing. But from my perspective, the side comments and descriptions of new policies and attitudes made the day worthwhile.

As an example, one CEO of a community bank told how he wanted to talk to the branch manager of the local office of a large competitor to see if it planned to close early because of a blizzard. There was no local number in the book, so he called the large bank's "800" number, only to be told that the local number of the branch was private and could not be distributed!

So much for local flavor at a formerly independent bank!

Another CEO summed up his way of using outside experts for operations and new technology by saying: "We have a high-tech bank with a low-tech CEO."

But the most fascinating item I picked up in the day of showcases, lectures, and roundtable discussions was that one bank offers a bonus to all employees involved in retention of accounts when a smaller institution has been acquired - up to $1,500 for branch managers whose offices meet their retention quotas.

All too often we give preference to new prospects and ignore the loyal people who have been with us a long time.

IBM Corp. in years gone by, and maybe even now, had a solution to this problem. Your salary was a commission based on what you sold. But if one of your customers "put IBM's iron on the street," that is, switched to another vendor, you lost as much commission as you would have been paid for the customer's purchase of the same IBM equipment.

It didn't matter whether you personally had sold the castoff IBM hardware. If it was now your account, and it was pulled, you lost money.

Can you think of a better way to prompt salespeople to care as much about old customers as they do about prospects?

We see the same situation in public finance.

A community will try to attract industry or other sorts of employers by offering tax breaks that, of course, have to be made up current taxpayers. It does not take too much savvy to recognize that after you have been so subsidized, you will now be among those taxpayers ponying up any subsidy used to attract another new employer.

Mr. Nadler is a contributing editor of the American Banker and professor of finance at Rutgers University Graduate School of Management.

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