Industry-Snapshot Software Helps Key Keep Up
Quittner, Jeremy, American Banker
By most standards, KeyCorp has a large commercial banking unit, with $4.5 billion in assets and relationships with 220,000 U.S. companies in a wide variety of industries.
That means the Cleveland banking company's 300 relationship managers must stay on top of multiple industries and understand the economics of different business sectors, as well as how each business functions.
To help its bankers maintain their clients - the majority of which are small businesses with under $10 million in annual revenues - as well as offer them the right products, Key uses a research tool called Industry Profile from First Research Inc.
The goal is to encourage commercial clients to rely more on their banks to provide value-added information and help them make more informed choices.
"We were trying to take the relationship managers and the commercial bank from being product providers to be more trusted advisors," said Jim Geuther, a senior vice president of business banking for KeyBank. He added the bank thought it could arrive at a competitive advantage by arming its sales force with "more timely and germane information" geared toward specific companies and industries.
"That way we could go in [to a sales call or client meeting] with greater credibility than our competitors," Mr. Geuther said.
Industry Profile allows Key's commercial bankers to quickly log onto either the bank's intranet or First Research's Web site to gather information on the latest developments in about 200 industries, ranging from accounting to waste management.
The interface has simple drop-down menus. Material under the "industry profile" tab includes a one-page overview of a given industry, a forecast on that business, and a list of suggested questions to ask over the phone in preparation for an in-person conversation with a customer.
The information is updated every 90 days, and bankers can request industry-specific e-mail alerts from First Research. Its information sources include, Factiva, Dow Jones, Reuters, and trade association reports.
"There's a lot of competition in the commercial banking industry, and any way to set yourself apart will help you gain more clients and retain them better," said Tyler Rullman, First Research's vice president of corporate development. "You gain credibility and trust for existing clients; it helps develop dialogue with new client and it shows how you understand and care about the industry and the business."
Before Key signed up with First Research, its commercial bankers relied on Google and other Internet search engines to bone up for sales calls.
"There was no consistency to it," Mr. Geuther said. "Even the best managers were not investing the time necessary as they began to take on more and more relationships." KeyBank relationship managers had 75 to 100 clients apiece, he said.
He would not name the other market-intelligence vendors KeyBank considered. Two big concerns were cost and integrating the product with the bank's intranet; Key wanted relationship managers to have easy access to the software.
The integration of Industry Profile took just a couple of days cost about $50,000, Mr. Geuther said, which he called a "reasonable" sum.
Getting the bankers to use Industry Profile before making sales calls can be hard work, but Mr. Geuther said about half of them are using it now. "We are trying to drive usage up" and to get most managers to use the product routinely, he said.
Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst for banking at Celent Communications, a Boston research firm, said "the biggest challenge of any type of implementation of sales force automation is the adoption of it by relationship managers."
Susan Landry, a managing vice president for Gartner Inc., a research firm in Stamford, Conn., said retail bankers typically close sales much faster; with commercial bankers it can take weeks or months. …