Merrill Lynch & Co. plans to rake in another $4 billion of assets to administer this year under the newly appointed head of its personal trust business.
Doris P. Meister is scheduled to start Monday as chairman and chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch Trust Cos., which handles $7 billion of personal trust assets.
"We're talking on the order of $100 billion in trust business both she and I are eager to have within both of our career spans," Mr. Michas said, adding Merrill has been named as successor trustee for $20 billion of assets.
Ms. Meister, who could not be reached, will report to Nassos Michas, senior vice president of diversified financial services. She was hired from Fleet Financial Group Inc., where she headed private client services for 17 months. Previously, Ms. Meister worked in management for a real estate advisory firm and an art auction house.
"We were looking for someone like Doris to provide vision and strategic leadership," Mr. Michas said. "When you go from $10 billion to $100 billion you have a lot of management issues to deal with."
The expansion should be possible, Mr. Michas said, since the trust business fields referrals from 15,000 Merrill brokers. Merrill Lynch Trust has 100 trust specialists and as many trust administrators in 24 offices around the country.
"It isn't that we're doing this from scratch. We're drafting all this off the huge Merrill Lynch domestic client infrastructure," he said.
Mr. Michas is also responsible for Merrill Lynch Credit Corp., the insurance group, business financial services, and group employee services.
The goal of $11 billion under administration by yearend may be reachable, said Douglas Trott, the president of Taddingstone Consulting Group in Toronto.
"Merrill could probably sell more than they could administer. The challenge is keeping up capability with their ability to create demand," Mr. Trott said.
Merrill's proclaimed success is ironic, he added, since "banks are all lamenting that there's no growth in trust."
But others said that because Merrill's stated purpose in trust is to keep clients, many of the trust assets are moving over from its brokerage accounts.
"It's new income, but it may not be new assets," said Robert M. Tetenbaum, executive vice president of First Manhattan Consulting Group. "The banks are talking about new assets coming in."
Mr. Michas credited David W.S. Chambers with bringing personal trust to its current level. Mr. Chambers was promoted to oversee a new group centered on core products, including the cash management account.
Merrill started personal trust in the late 1980s and it has been a long haul, Mr. Michas said. For instance, at first Merrill chartered state trust companies in key markets and had centralized trust administration. Now, using a federal thrift charter, Merrill markets trust nationally, but serves clients locally. Merrill also now takes special assets in trusts, not just liquid investments.
"We had to learn a lot of lessons. We had a couple of approaches at the beginning that were anything but ideal," he said. "When you offer a relatively limited cookie-cutter offering, our financial consultants lose interest very fast."