Banks Find Investment Seminars Are Smart Marketing

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Investment seminars organized by banks and insurance companies are a good opportunity to sell products and to consolidate their existing customers, experts say.

Because consumers are hungry to learn about investing, a seminar has considerable credibility among consumers in a world where they are swamped by junk mail, telemarketing calls and spam.

“”It does not appear to be a good idea to call people and ask them to invest with a complete stranger,” says Carmela Michaels, representative at Sovereign Banks, Toms River, N.J. In contrast, the interactive nature and educational content of the seminar enables the organizers to win their trust, she notes.

Usually, financial companies use two criteria to organize the seminars, depending on the target audience they have in mind. One is to promote their own services and the other is to educate consumers about investing and finance.

“We have created our own proprietary seminars based on consumers needs and the feedback from our financial advisors about what kind of topic and what kind of planning issue should be discussed,” says Ron Johnson, director for advisors and marketing at American Express Financial Services Company, Minneapolis.

“We have also taken an educational approach to provide a forum where information can be shared about financial planning topics,” he adds.

American Express organizes educational seminars by focusing on the financial implications of what it calls life experiences such as marriage or having a first child, notes Johnson.

When companies use the seminar to attract new customers, they scout new opportunities to gain access to them, observes Michaels, who has taught investment classes at local high schools.

J.P. Morgan Chase, New York, hosts pre-packaged personal finance seminars. The bank organizes seminars for community organizations, faith-based institutions, and schools so that those who do not have access to technology, particularly in low- and moderate-income communities can receive information they need.

When they are organizing seminars for their customers to promote new products or to educate them about the need for rebalancing their portfolios, financial institutions use simple methods to publicize the events.

They promote the seminars through Web site postings, flyers and inserts in customers monthly statements, among other methods.

“We just post the announcement on the door of the branch office,” says Joseph Cortese, call center manager at Independence Community Bank, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Some companies use a combination of a telephone call and a seminar to promote their new products and help their customers with their portfolios.

For instance, PNCAdvisors, the wealth management unit of PNC Bank, Pittsburgh, holds a regular teleconference seminar called Bulls Eye to help customers update their holdings.

It is important for companies to retain the contacts they make during the seminars, notes Cortese. “We expect they will do more business with us after the seminar,” he says.

Retention of new contacts appears to be very important in todays volatile market, although it has always been an integral part of financial advisors jobs. Many companies usually follow up seminars with phone calls, newsletters and surveys.

However, some companies are cautious in following up with their new contacts. American Express, for example, does not call their new contacts after a seminar unless an attendee gives permission to do so.

Notes Johnson, “A seminar allows advisors to secure a qualified lead from someone who gave permission to call him.”

Seminars, if combined with solid customer retention tactics, are a good way to get more business from existing customers by advising them to invest in new areas, experts agree.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 22, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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