AmSouth Bancorp, which plans to expand in Florida and double its wealth management business companywide over the next three years, has opened its first freestanding wealth management center to target high-net-worth customers in the state.
The Birmingham, Ala., company is plowing through its Florida branch-building project, internally referred to as 30 branches in 30 months. In the first quarter it built six branches in its target markets in Florida: Naples, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville.
The latest addition a yellow hacienda-style establishment opened in May in South Tampa. It has eight employees and offers private banking, investment management, trust and estate planning, brokerage, and residential mortgage services.
AmSouth has turned to Florida to attract new customers for its wealth management division, because there is regular migration of eligible prospects to the South, said Jim Watrous, senior vice president and head of private banking for the West Coast of Florida.
The company says the upscale office, featuring comforts of home such as coffee and cable television, will attract wealthy clients who want financial planning assistance. The office has the usual trappings of a private banking outpost: no teller lines cluttering the space and employees seated behind desks.
AmSouth is focusing on high-growth markets in terms of product distribution, and clearly Florida, with its heavy segment of retirees, offers a viable marketplace, said Robert S. Patten, a bank analyst at UBS Warburg. But the Florida market is heavily banked in terms of wealth management and private banking competition, so it remains to be seen how AmSouth will differentiate itself, Mr. Patten said.
AmSouth, with $38.8 billion in total assets, operates in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, in addition to Florida. Its wealth management group includes a trust division with $25.8 billion of assets, a complex of 28 mutual funds with $7.3 billion of assets under management, AmSouth Investment Services Inc., a brokerage subsidiary, and a private banking group.
In mid-April AmSouth hired Geoff von Kuhn, the former head of Citigroup Inc.s U.S. private bank, to run its wealth management business.
I hope that within the first 12 months we will be at a run rate that is profitable, Mr. Watrous said.
To attract new clients to the wealth management unit, the bank is using marketing efforts, media support, and direct mail initiatives, Mr. Watrous said.
AmSouth will also target owners of businesses with sales of $1 million to $5 million who are already customers of the bank through a business relationship, he said.
The company plans to add 11 employees to the wealth management group in Tampa area over the next three years, Mr. Watrous said.