As Edward D. Jones & Co. prepares to complete its purchase of a Missouri thrift, the brokerage's plans in banking are turning out to be far more ambitious than it had first indicated.
Jones & Co. has added home loans and credit cards to the list of products that it intends to market nationwide, according to Steven Novik, a principal with the St. Louis-based firm.
When it announced its acquisition plans last October, the firm said it was buying Boone National Savings and Loan Association to enter the trust business.
Thrift regulators have yet to give Jones & Co. the go-ahead to acquire the $64 million-asset thrift, based in Columbia. But if approval is granted this spring, as seems likely, some industry experts expect Jones & Co. to use the thrift to transform itself into a diversified financial services company.
Jones & Co.'s goal "really is to integrate all bank products," said Rolland Johannsen, president of Furash & Co., a financial services consulting firm in Washington.
With 3,200 offices and 1.7 million customers nationwide, Jones & Co. has long been seen as a formidable rival of banks, particularly in the small towns where the brokerage has its roots.
Mr. Novik, who is overseeing Jones & Co.'s acquisition of Boone National, said the personal trust business remains the big draw of the deal, because customers have been asking specifically for this service.
But, he added, "home loans are an area that have been very attractive to us." He said Jones & Co.'s brokers will market the loans, with Boone handling the processing. "We're very confident of Boone's back-room operations," he said.
Boone would also be able to handle processing of credit cards and other fee-generating products, Mr. Novik said.
On the other hand, he said, Jones & Co. has already ruled out some business lines. For instance, the firm won't attempt to enter the corporate trust business. Nor will it market Boone's certificates of deposit through its brokerage network.
"We want to use the thrift to generate trust and other business, but we're not going to be in the business of generating deposits for it," Mr. Novik said. "The thrift does that well on its own."
He declined to specify when Jones & Co. will begin offering the expanded services, saying only that personal trust will be the first new product. One reason is that Jones & Co. already has substantial experience in the personal trust arena. The firm has been offering these services for a year through a referral arrangement with The Trust Co., St. Joseph, Mo.
Lyman Frick, president of The Trust Co., said the bank has set up more than 50 accounts for Jones. The firm will continue to refer customers to The Trust Co. until Jones' own trust operations begin, Mr. Novik said.
That won't happen until the Office of Thrift Supervision acts on Jones & Co.'s applications to form a thrift holding company and exercise trust powers. The agency is looking closely at how Jones plans to operate the thrift.
At issue is whether the thrift would be adequately "insulated from liabilities" incurred by Jones & Co., and whether there would be "potential conflicts of interest that might occur," said Dean Shahinian, senior counsel for the OTS.
The OTS has fielded some complaints from bankers about Jones & Co.'s plans. On January 13, the Missouri Bankers Association petitioned the OTS to block Jones & Co. from acquiring Boone National with its trust department intact, unless its trust activities were severely limited. Missouri permits its trust companies to operate only within the state and those that border on it.
A spokeswoman for Jones & Co. said such limits are unlikely to be imposed. "We believe the OTS is well within its rights to exercise its federal preemption of state law."
Some bankers shrugged off the news that Jones & Co. is expanding its plans for the Missouri thrift.
"Ten years down the road no one is going to be able to tell the difference between a brokerage and a bank," said James T. Prangey, a senior vice president at Adams Bank and Trust, Oglala, Neb.