First Michigan Bank Corp. has put its "trust" in the community.
The Holland, Mich., company has disbanded an affiliate at corporate headquarters that oversaw trust and portfolio management; it has moved its service representatives directly into bank offices.
"We're bringing the service to the customer in a much better way than we previously were," said Larry D. Fredricks, executive vice president and chief financial officer.
The $2.7 billion-asset company expects the move to increase its trust business by 20% this year, twice the usual growth, he said.
FMB Financial Group was created in 1991, along with FMB Brokerage Services. But because First Michigan's banks and customers had to go through the Holland office for all trust and portfolio management services, the company eventually decided to make them more accessible.
In December, about 60 people left headquarters for bank hubs in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Zeeland, Mich. Representatives frequently visit all 12 of the company's banks.
First Michigan, which posted its 13th consecutive year of record performance in 1994, earning $31.2 million, hired about five employees for one hub.
"By disbanding the group and putting it in the branch network, I think it adds to their community banking services," said Tony Howard, an analyst at First of Michigan Corp., Detroit.
Each bank also now plans its own sales objectives for the services, Mr. Fredericks said.
And First Michigan is taking a more aggressive sales approach overall, including brokers who already were based in the branches, he said.
Cutting short the life of the financial group affiliate doesn't hurt the company, given its strong track record, said Michael M. Moran, an analyst at Roney & Co., Detroit.
It only would become a problem if management made such changes "as often as it changed its socks," he said.