We have all read the numerous articles about the enormous opportunities for those in the business of providing trust services, with the impending transfer of $10 trillion dollars into such services during the next decade. Banks and trust companies, the traditional purveyors of trust services, together with brokerage firms and mutual fund companies, are all gearing up to attract the assets represented by this huge number.
The banks and trust companies are rapidly trying to revamp their sales efforts, build teams of sales professionals, and polish their images as the only places people should consider placing trust assets. They are also making strong efforts to portray themselves as customer focused and user- friendly.
Brokerage firms and mutual fund companies are obtaining or seeking to obtain trust powers in each state and nationally. These players are all touting state-of-the-art technology, the capability to permit daily changes in asset allocations, and seven-day-a-week telephone or personal computer- access systems that allow clients to checkportfolio details, market data, performance information, etc.
All of these companies want to be a client's "friend," as depicted in their advertisements. Some of these ads are directed at the affluent, some at the nearly affluent, and many at middle- and upper- middle-income citizens.
But, if you carefully review the various television, newspaper, and magazine campaigns, and the brochures used in direct mail efforts, you will notice they are all missing two critical elements: an offer to initiate communications with clients, via statements and face-to-face meetings, and any mention of who will service their accounts and relationships.
I have noted one series of ads by a Boston-based firm that mentions its history of more than a century in the trust business and provides details on the average level of service provided by its trust employees. And I have seen ads for newly formed trust companies of regional and community banks that stress their ties to their communities and their "personal" approach to trust services.
But I have never seen a trust company or a bank mention the names of its staff people, show photographs of its personnel, or give any sense that a client will be dealing with people devoted to his or her accounts or relationships on an ongoing basis.
Meanwhile, the brokers and mutual fund companies continue to include the names of their trust professionals, but then tell their customers to call an "800" number to discuss their accounts, almost anytime, seven days a week.
I submit that while some of these efforts will be successful in gathering new clients and assets, no one firm or group is really going to dominate the market.
These firms must provide true client services. They have to initiate communications with their clients on an ongoing basis. And they must attempt to provide continuity by developing and maintaining professional staffs skilled at building and managing relationships. If they do not, they will fall short of their goals.
However, the magic $10 trillion that is expected to flow into trust services must go somewhere. So some players will see some growth, if only by default.
The firms that will enjoy the greatest growth are those that can build an infrastructure consisting of competent, truly service-oriented personnel dedicated to relationship development and nurturing, coupled with the technology to deliver timely, accurate information and the ability to initiate communications with clients.
All of the bells and whistles in the universe aren't worth their cost if clients feel neglected; if they don't know to whom they will speak when they call to discuss their accounts; or, if they have to make the calls rather than receive them.
Even in this era of the information superhighway, PC-based banking, and home-accessed financial services, clients - when it comes to their trust assets - still want to be sure that someone who knows them will be available when they want to discuss any aspect of their relationship with their trust provider.
The blueprint for success in the trust business in the future, aside from the obvious technological requirements for instant information delivery and investment allocations, includes:
*Establishing clear and specific standards for service delivery and response to client inquiries and needs.
*Instilling commitment in your staff to adhere to the standards.
*Setting criteria for client contact programs based on assets under management, activity levels, and total relationships of the client.
*Communicating, communicating, communicating with your client.
Mr. Gorman is a trust and custody administration consultant based in Farmington, Conn.