Riggs National Corp. the largest bank headquartered in Washington, D.C., has launched a campaign to raise its profile with the affluent inside the Beltway.
For starters, the company has harnessed its trust, investment management, and private banking services into a single unit overseen by chief operating officer Timothy A. Lex. He will preside over 200 employees including trust officers, lenders, portfolio managers, and sales people.
The $5.1 billion-asset bank is also trying to attract attention by naming the new unit Riggs & Co.-the name the holding company was founded under in 1837.
"We wanted to separately brand that part of our business," Mr. Lex said. "We certainly hope the new Riggs & Co. is something people will notice."
Like many banks, Riggs is trying to disassociate its investment management business from traditional retail operations, Mr. Lex said. The company wants customers to think of it as a full-service money manager, not just an originator of loans and gatherer of deposits.
Riggs announced the new division at a party it hosted for 1,200 clients to watch the Inaugural parade for President Clinton on Monday.
Analysts hope the company is doing more than just posturing.
"It's a nice touch with the name, but that's not meaningful," said Alex C. Hart, a banking analyst at Ferris, Baker, Watts Inc., Baltimore.
"What's more important is that investment management performance and service are good," Mr. Hart said. "It has been historically, and that gives them at the very least a marketing advantage."
But Mr. Hart acknowledged he is encouraged by the steady growth of Riggs' trust business. Riggs posted investment management and trust revenues for 1996 of $33.3 million, an 11.4% increase from the previous year.
Riggs and its investment management subsidiary, Rimco, manage $5 billion in client assets in trust, investment accounts, and mutual funds.
The nation's capital is teeming with prospects, too. Washington is fourth in affluence among metropolitan areas-behind New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
One-fourth of households have incomes of at least $100,000 and more than $500,000 of investable assets, according to Payment Systems Inc., a Tampa- based research firm.
"We have an enviable customer base to build from," Mr. Lex said.
Riggs typically caters to diplomats, lawyers, businessmen, academics, technology entrepreneurs, manufactures, and nonprofit foundations. The bank is also regarded as having the dominant share of accounts established by embassies and their employees.
The company is starting to feel competitive heat from First Union Corp., NationsBank Corp., and Crestar Financial Corp., which explains its new marketing push. But analysts are hardly calling for the bank to throw in the towel.
"Riggs' reputation is consistent with building private banking: They're stuffy," according to Bert Ely, a banking consultant with Ely & Co., Alexandria, Va.