To get closer to wealthy families, Bankers Trust New York Corp.'s private bank is ramping up a socially responsible investment program.
Dubbed Wealth with Responsibility, the program includes a series of seminars that began in 1995 on how to make investments that coincide with their clients' ethical beliefs.
Bankers Trust, which manages $200 billion in client assets, invites prospective as well as current clients to the meetings. Executives say the program is not a marketing pitch but an integral part of competing as a full-service provider.
"The winners in the private banking market will be those that have the strongest and deepest relationships with their clients," said Peter K. Scaturro, a senior managing director in Bankers Trust's private bank.
To that end, the program also seeks to help the wealthy address philanthropic issues. At the suggestion of clients who attended two prior Wealth with Responsibility meetings, the bank next quarter plans to launch the Bankers Trust Micro Enterprise Fund - a charitable foundation to make loans to small businesses internationally.
More than 30 wealthy families have signed up to attend a Bankers Trust conference next month to discuss global investments and charity. Another meeting will be held in the late spring for an anticipated 60 families. Those invited have a net worth of at least $50 million.
Many investment managers are rolling out mutual funds that follow so- called "socially responsible" investment policies. These funds include statements about what types of investments can be made and what kinds are banned.
Wealthy families "are literally capable of influencing change by themselves," Mr. Scaturro said, "whereas those mutual funds put a block of people together to help a community."
To better gauge what their objectives are, the bank polled 80 wealthy families about their ethics in investing and philanthropy. The survey was released last quarter to clients and prospects.
The respondents were a combination of Bankers Trust clients and people who have retained the help of three organizations: Synergos Institute, Philanthropic Initiative, and International Skye. These groups work with the wealthy on investing, creating charitable foundations, and grappling with personal family matters, respectively.
More than half of the survey respondents said they had intentionally put some of their money in socially responsible investments, and one-third said they plan to do so. Only 8% said they do not consider that factor.
The results did not surprise Peter A. White, president of International Skye, who is helping Bankers Trust create a library of information on using money for socially responsible purposes.
"The answer to what to do with enormous wealth seems obvious to those of us who don't have it," Mr. White said. "The reality of having that money is (deciding) what precisely to do with it."
And many of the wealthy consider ethics when making such decisions. Fifty percent of the survey respondents said they had made venture capital investments that reflect such considerations.
And 33% said they do not buy stock of companies that produce alcohol, tobacco, or weapons.