Put off by increased costs of technology in the securities custody business, London-based Lazard Brothers is transferring administration of some $6 billion in assets under custody to Bankers Trust New York Corp.
The deal brings to $1.5 trillion the amount of securities Bankers Trust has under custody, including increasing amounts held outside the United States.
Global custodians hold securities in safekeeping for investors and arrange for various kinds of transactions related to those securities.
Officials from Bankers Trust and Lazard said the agreement would allow for the execution of "complex, customized settlement arrangements" requiring costly technology.
Lazard Brothers' chief operating officer, Nicholas Parkes, said it wants to maintain its in-house global custody business but concentrate on its core investment-management business.
Because of the growing technology costs, he said, Lazard decided that clients were best served by having "a top-quality independent custodian" hold their assets.
"We believe that global-custody outsourcing will increasingly become best market practice," he said.
The agreement is the third such international deal Bankers Trust has done recently. Last year, the bank signed a private labeling agreement with France's Credit Lyonnais to take over custody of some $85 billion in securities. BT also did a similar, smaller deal in 1995 with Amalgamated Banks of South Africa.
Bankers Trust, alongside Citicorp, Bank of New York Corp., State Street Boston Corp., and Chase Manhattan Corp., has been investing heavily in global custody. Other banks - such as J.P. Morgan & Co. - have opted out of the business, preferring to develop other activities. Bank of New York ranks as the largest player in the business, with more than $3 trillion under custody.
"It's not a high-margin business, but it is an economy-of-scale business where the latest technologies are prerequisites to profitability," said Raphael Soifer, a banking analyst with Brown Brothers Harriman.
He noted that Bankers Trust has invested heavily in recent years in its Mars securities custody system and is keen to build up volume and develop new revenue sources.
The bank needs to compensate for business lost as a result of litigation against it by companies that suffered losses on derivatives contracts, he said.