Magazine article American Banker

Norwest Fights Image as Indifferent Giant

Magazine article American Banker

Norwest Fights Image as Indifferent Giant

Article excerpt

Norwest Corp. is making a strong bid to change its image with small local businesses.

Using market segmentation approaches and an account package called Norwest Small Business Advantage, the Minneapolis superregional's Twin Cities Banking unit is out to dispel the notion - spread with some glee by smaller community banks - that Norwest was often a remote and out-of-touch presence.

Now Norwest has done what Scott A. Kisting, regional president, says large institutions will increasingly have to do if they expect to meet the growing demands of small companies.

"This was an evolution for us," Mr. Kisting conceded.

To signal its commitment, $67 billion-asset Norwest's lead bank started with a survey to explore the product needs and preferences of 100 businesses in its target market - those under $1 million in annual sales.

The result was the package called Norwest Small Business Advantage. It was augmented last week with Business Express/PC, which delivers sophisticated electronic banking services via personal computers.

"This business today is all about segmentation," Mr. Kisting said in a recent interview. "You really have to tailor your services to meet specific needs."

The survey revealed a significant desire for product simplicity and ease of access to banking services, and Norwest designed Small Business Advantage accordingly.

"They said keep it simple ... and it's a very simple product to understand," said Mike McHugh, senior vice president and regional manager of Norwest Twin Cities Banking.

It includes up to $100,000 in credit, business credit cards with a limit of $2,000, and no check fees.

An associated savings account offers a premium interest rate with no minimum balance requirement, and overdraft protection of $5,000 can be granted on the spot.

The Advantage package gives small-business owners free ATM cards and other access to account information - now also via PC - 24 hours a day. …

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