Comerica Inc., aided by its trust alliance with PaineWebber Inc., is reaching into new markets across the country for wealthy prospects.
Detroit-based Comerica can do personal trust business in 43 states, up from 25 a year ago. Before the 1995 alliance, the banking company served trusts in only four states.
PaineWebber brokers refer wealthy clients seeking an institutional estate trustee to Comerica. The referrals accounted for 20% of the bank's new personal trust business last year, up from 10% to 15% in 1997, said Rodney Wood, first vice president in the private banking division.
Since Comerica has offices in a minority of the 43 states where it may legally do trust business, its salespeople drop in to PaineWebber offices to meet with brokers' clients. To beef up its physical presence, Comerica plans to open an office this year in Phoenix, where PaineWebber has four offices. Sales calls there had been made by a trust officer from Comerica's office in Costa Mesa, Calif., Mr. Wood said.
The banking company is looking for a trust professional who is already based in Phoenix or an employee who could be transferred to the city.
"There's a fair amount of local trust business" in Phoenix, Mr. Wood said, "and calling from as close as California still might put us at a disadvantage."
Assets in accounts opened because of the relationship with PaineWebber are not disclosed, nor are the fee-sharing arrangements. Overall, Comerica administers $17 billion of personal trust assets.
Investments for accounts referred by PaineWebber are selected by a team that includes Comerica trust officers, PaineWebber brokers, and advisers such as attorneys who are close enough to families to be knowledgeable about beneficiaries' needs, Mr. Wood said.
The investments are typically spread among a variety of investment managers and mutual funds, he added. Traditional trust accounts at Comerica are primarily managed internally.
PaineWebber calls the alliance a success, a spokesman said. Though the brokerage company has applied to the Office of Thrift Supervision for trust powers, executives have maintained-and the spokesman reiterated-that PaineWebber intends to continue the alliance with Comerica.
Many brokerage firms, including Merrill Lynch & Co., have created their own trust departments. Others, such as Prudential Securities Inc., use bank trust departments to administer accounts on a private-label basis.
Mr. Wood said that though PaineWebber's clients want to stick with their brokers-who in many cases have been their families' primary financial advisers-they find the banking company's history in trust appealing.
"You have a truly independent trustee who has been in the business-in our case over 100 years-and has a lot of expertise in-house that a lot of firms will take years to get," he said.
And the alliance, which combines Comerica's trust experience with PaineWebber's sales force, costs less than if each company expanded on its own, said David Ross Palmer, a private banking consultant in East Falmouth, Mass.
"Given the characteristics of both organizations and their reputations in the field-which is strengths in particular areas that the other is not strong in-it makes a lot of sense," he said. "I'm not terribly surprised that it's grown."
Mr. Wood said the alliance's only real challenge has been obtaining trust powers state by state.