Bank urging employees to buy PCs

First Union program includes incentives

Financial services

August 19, 1999|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- First Union Corp. has launched an aggressive program to encourage all its 70,000 employees to buy a PC from Dell Computer Corp.

While the idea of offering discounted home computers is a corporate trend that has been going on for nearly two years, First Union is going about it a little more enthusiastically than most, said Andy North, a Dell Computer Corp. spokesman.

The main incentive is a discount of at least $500 for each computer, said First Union spokesman Tony Hoppa. The bank also is offering lower-than-market-rate loans for employees by charging prime rate, which is now 8 percent.

If that doesn't persuade them, there's this: Chairman Edward E. Crutchfield Jr. recently sent out a memo encouraging them to buy.

There was a 10-computer giveaway. There's a new Web site by Dell just for First Union workers with home PCs. There were payroll stuffers. And all employees have received free software that hooks them into the bank from home.

Sandy Morgart, a vice president of First Union's training center, First University, said the bank originally was looking for a way to let employees train on the bank's new products at home and on their own time.

Training bank employees down to the last teller likely would help product sales, Morgart said. Management also saw the potential for increased productivity. "Someone could say, `Can I leave work early, I'll get some work done at home tonight,' " Morgart said.

Then executives realized they would like to add their 70,000 employees to the 845,258 people already using the company's online banking. First Union also wants workers to sign up for the Internet bill-paying system and online securities trading.

Since the July 30 launch date, Dell has received 272 orders and almost 6,000 inquiries to a Web site and an 800 number.

However, Lawrence Cohn, an analyst with Ryan, Beck & Co., wondered how many workers would buy PCs, especially people making less than $25,000 a year.

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