The Fine Art of Attracting Customers: Atlanta's Paces Bank and Trust Uses Watercolors

By Cline, Kenneth | American Banker, December 26, 1991 | Go to article overview

The Fine Art of Attracting Customers: Atlanta's Paces Bank and Trust Uses Watercolors


Cline, Kenneth, American Banker


A harpist in a black gown plucks her way through "Theme from The Thorn Birds," mellow accompaniment for visitors studying a new exhibit of watercolors depicting scenes from Antarctica, Kenya, and the Galapagos Islands.

Your typical Manhattan art gallery opening? No, your atypical bank lobby in Atlanta. It's the headquarters of Paces Bank and Trust, whose well-heeled clients are getting a preview of an exhibit by local artist Alan Campbell.

The $14.3 million-asset bank, chartered two years ago, sponsors at least one art exhibit a quarter to enhance its image as an upscale, private bank.

Bringing in Prospects

"We think it's an effective marketing tool for us," said chairman and chief executive Peter H. Isop, noting that the exhibits draw potential as well as current clients.

Paces began life in December 1989 as a "women's bank," and it is still 52% owned by women.

But like its prototype in New York - the former First Women's Bank of New York that has transformed itself into First New York Bank for Business - the Georgia institution has changed its focus.

Since Paces was located in an affluent Atlanta neighborhood, Mr. Isop decided to deemphasize gender and focus on upscale individuals and the small businesses that many own.

Turnaround Tactic

It was a mandatory decision for Mr. Isop, 53, who formerly was an executive vice president of corporate banking at C&S/Sovran Corp.

When he joined Paces in September 1990 from the Atlanta-based superregional, growth was behind plan, and the small bank's executive suite was in turmoil.

(The former president now reports to Mr. Isop, and another executive, who was hired from Banque Indosuez, has sued Paces, charging wrongful dismissal.)

Not for Women Only

Mr. Isop, who bridles at the term "women's bank," said Paces never intended to attract female customers only.

But in a city where about 50 banks have been founded since the mid-1980s, he said, it was essential for Paces to maintain a niche to distinguish itself.

Print, radio, and television advertising are prohibitively expensive for a $14 million bank, so he began inviting artists in to lure prospective customers and gain recognition. …

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