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 PROVIDENCE, R.I., July 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Fleet Financial Group (NYSE: FLT) has launched a comprehensive program aimed at keeping the company among the strongest in the financial services industry, it was announced today by Terrence Murray, chairman and chief executive officer.
 The program is intended to enhance the corporation's competitive position by undertaking a comprehensive review of all its activities and operations. The review is designed to build a more efficient organization with enhanced customer service and focus. Its goal is to improve Fleet's existing efficiency ratio from the current 67 percent to under 60 percent over the next two years.
 The program, named Fleet Focus '94, will consist of an intensive project phase lasting approximately seven months, followed by an implementation period of recommended actions that management expects will make Fleet one of the nation's most efficient financial services providers.
 "This project is essential for Fleet's future," Murray said. "We regard it as a fundamental change in the way we will conduct business and how we will run this company in the coming years." Fleet expects the project to result in revenue enhancement and spending cuts in virtually all areas of Fleet's Northeast operations.
 Fleet Focus '94 will concentrate initially on Fleet's seven banks and its several financial services subsidiaries in New York and New England. "By improving our efficiency performance, we are confident of significantly boosting our corporate earnings," Murray said. "Sustained earnings performance will increase the value of our stock and heighten Fleet's appeal to the broader investment community."
 Murray also pointed out that "competition for today's customer is intense, and increasingly savvy customers are demanding quality at a good price. Only a highly efficient company can afford to provide both quality service and truly competitive prices," Murray added. "For us, the issue is, 'How can we position our company for tomorrow's opportunities?'"
 One of the reasons for initiating Fleet Focus '94 now, Murray said, "is that the state of the economy presents us with a unique window of opportunity. While the economy may have bottomed out, it has not yet started to rebound solidly. In the expected absence of near-term growth, and before the economy heats up, now is an ideal time to restructure the work we do and the way we do it while also positioning the company for future growth. By improving as soon as we can, we think Fleet will be in the best possible position to capitalize on the real economic recovery, whenever it begins," Murray said.
 Fleet has retained Tandon Capital Associates, a New York based advisory firm, to assist in the effort. Tandon is a recognized leader in the area of bank reengineering.
 Fleet Focus '94 is an employee-driven process designed to identify ideas on how to reduce costs and enhance revenues. These recommendations will be submitted to a Steering Committee consisting of Murray, Fleet's three vice chairmen, chief financial officer and head of human resources.
 As part of this process, Fleet expects all employees to participate by generating many thousands of ideas for subsequent evaluation. All ideas will be assessed to determine risk factors and impact on customer service. It is expected that a significant number of the recommendations will be approved.
 "We are not reviewing employees and the quality of their work. We are reviewing work itself, we are seeking to remove redundant activities to bring about improved efficiency. By examining the work we all do and the way we do it, we can optimize our activities without any change in our strategy," Murray said.
 Murray explained that one technique used to identify all potential cost-saving opportunities is the establishment of a 50 percent stretch target in improving operating profit. In explaining the "stretch target," Murray said, "It is an analytical tool to stimulate breakthrough thinking about all possible ways to trim expenses. The 50 percent stretch target does not, however, represent an actual cost reduction goal, nor is it a mandated reduction in activities or personnel.
 "Any project of this nature will entail difficult decisions and sacrifices," Murray stated. "Clearly, some positions will be eliminated in all levels of the company, and this is one of the most painful responsibilities of management. But we will not know what the positions are until early 1994, when the program is completed. Some layoffs will likely occur, but we're committed to treating our employees in an up- front and fair manner."
 Murray concluded: "The sum of the many reasons for launching Fleet Focus '94 is that we must do it if we wish to continue as a preeminant player in the financial services industry. Efficiency and customer focus are its major goals. It's an effort that will help ensure long- term value for both our shareholders and employees. We are excited about this unique opportunity for our employees to join with management to redesign Fleet for the rapidly changing environment that we face."
 Fleet Financial Group is a $45-billion diversified services company listed on the New York Stock Exchange with approximately 1,200 offices nationwide. Its lines of business include commercial and consumer banking, mortgage banking, consumer finance, asset-based lending, investment management, and student loan processing.
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 /CONTACT: Robert W. Lougee, Jr. vice president, corporate communications, 401-278-5879; or Bruce P. Crooks, 401-278-6241; or Thomas L. Lavelle, 401-278-3003 (Media); or Judith B. Ragge, 401-278-6444 (Investor), all of Fleet Financial/

CO: Fleet Financial ST: Rhode Island IN: FIN SU:

CM -- NE011 -- 6709 07/28/93 10:31 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jul 28, 1993

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