Magazine article American Banker

Sales Unit at First Union Specializes in Women's Needs

Magazine article American Banker

Sales Unit at First Union Specializes in Women's Needs

Article excerpt

As director of First Union Corp.'s fledgling Women's Financial Advisory Services unit, Debra Nichols has heard it all.

Like the story from the insulted client who was told by her banker to bring her husband in when she wanted to set up an investment plan.

Or the one from the woman entrepreneur who applied for a business loan, only to have a banker direct his questions to her male attorney.

These are sure ways to alienate a customer, Ms. Nichols said.

Hired a year ago as a senior vice president, Ms. Nichols has been charged with shaking up the sales culture at the Charlotte, N.C., banking company by inaugurating a new focus on women customers.

"Our goal is that wherever a woman would go at First Union, she feels like she is being treated with respect and that somebody is understanding her needs as a customer," Ms. Nichols said.

First Union's effort follows those at banking companies nationwide. Last April, San Francisco-based BankAmerica Corp. launched its own women's financial initiative, using educational seminars and links to women's organizations to reach female customers.

Columbus, Ohio-based Banc One Corp. is targeting the women's market as well, offering special products for woman-owned businesses and a dedicated toll-free phone number to take loan applications from women.

At $144 billion-asset First Union, the initiative is still in its early stages. The company installed software in its private banking division Jan. 1 to track its women-focused programs.

Goals have been adopted for each department. …

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