It was much easier in the "good old days," when banks were virtually the automatic choice for wealth management.

If you had money for trusts and investments, you usually went to your private banker or your bank's trust department.

However, times have changed. The "good old days" are being replaced by the competitive new days, and the trust and investment market offers considerably more choice to the wealthy.

This greater choice, in turn, has resulted in a greater challenge for banks.

Banks are more than able to compete in terms of wide-ranging services. However, the challenge is less in what banks have to offer than in how they communicate their competitive strengths. In that regard, too many banks are deficient in creating and delivering informational programs that promote awareness and prompt action.

A variety of factors affect this situation:

More affluence has been created, with more millionaires, net worth, and family fortunes than ever before.

There are many new investors in the 25-to-40 age range, with less investing experience.

These new investors are being courted as mutual fund clients.

Brokerage firms have created competitive products.

Private investment managers and registered investment advisers are attracting sophisticated investors.

Banks have addressed these competitive challenges by building their breadth of service to include everything in the investment category: investment management, trust departments, mutual funds, individual account management, and commingled account management.

Banks also offer loans, custody of securities, financial planning, and brokerage services.

With such an array of services, one would think that banks can readily recapture some of that lost market share. However, it hasn't happened quickly because one more challenge remains: communication.

According to several studies, most of the target audience thinks banks are too conservative, behind the times, not aggressive enough, and deliver only middling performance, without offering focused relationships.

At the same time, most of that same target audience is seeking consolidation, or bundling, of financial services and the advantages this brings.

Unfortunately, far too many banks have not yet begun to answer that challenge.

However, institutions such as Bank of America Corp. and Riggs Bank and Trust are working on unified marketing communications programs that will more clearly convey the quality and scope of their offerings.

An audit of its marketing communications found that the story of Bank of America's private bank was not being told with impact and vigor.

In response, the bank is creating a positioning and marketing communications strategy that is intended to support its growth objectives. The goal: to communicate to clients and prospects that the private bank delivers the unexpected and takes investing seriously.

Riggs Bank and its private banking subsidiary, Riggs & Co., are leading financial institutions in Washington, with a 160-year heritage.

But Riggs is often seen as a stuffy, old-line institution. Therefore, it is repositioning its brand with a corporate identity program, advertising, and a comprehensive system of print and Web-based marketing communications.

The program is meant to communicate Riggs' sophisticated financial expertise, customer focus, heritage, commitment to the Washington economy and community, and broad offering of financial products and services.

Perhaps as more of this takes place, we may see something of a return to the "good old days" of wealth management. Mr. Wechsler is the chief executive officer of Wechsler Ross & Partners Inc., a New York marketing and design company.

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