A bank in search of investment management expertise might simply buy a firm offering that advice. But a small Connecticut bank recently took a different tack.
Early this year, $270 million-asset Westport Bank and Trust teamed up with an investment firm to offer tailored stock and bond portfolios to their trust clients.
Previously, Westport's in-house investment manager devised strategies for $600 million of trust assets under management.
Through a partnership with Trust Advisors Group, a registered investment adviser and consultancy also based in Westport, the bank has expanded its array of investment options, giving personal trust clients access to over 100 money managers.
The bank launched the products in March to vie with bigger competitors in the New York City area.
The funds serve as conduits to money managers whose minimum investments typically run over $1 million, while the bank's personal trust accounts typically have $750,000.
"We're bringing down to smaller levels the expertise of nationally known money managers that people would not normally have access to," said Lynn Calabro, director of marketing for Westport.
"This is different from what brokers do because you're not just picking mutual funds," she added.
Westport trumpets the new product, Wealth Management Services, in an ad with a smiling baby to connote a commitment to long-term investment.
But the ad campaign also symbolizes a new market strategy for the 143- year-old bank. In the past, its primary means of gaining clients was through referrals from attorneys and accountants.
Westport personal trust clients can invest in portfolios managed by firms such as Great Lakes Advisors, Burridge Advisors, Richmond Capital, and Criterion Investment Advisors.
"Chase is going to sell you a family of mutual funds that is developed in-house. There are thousands of mutual funds and your mutual fund is no different from your neighbor's," Ms. Calabro said.
"But at Westport, your portfolio is going to be different than your neighbor's because we're utilizing experts. We just don't have them employed here," she said.
Trust Advisory Group, a division of Callan Investment Management Counsel, San Francisco, worked with Westport on its institutional trust investment management services.
Historically, the firm developed propriety mutual funds for banks like Provident Bancorp, Cincinnati, and Huntington Bancshares, Columbus, Ohio, but was perfectly amenable to working with Westport to reach its smaller investors.
"They operate in one of the most lucrative markets in the country, in terms of the concentration of high-net-worth individuals and small corporate entities," said Mark Tonucci, president of Trust Advisor Group. "They felt in order to compete in the investment management arena, they needed products that cater to that particular market."