MFS Financial Services’ trust department is trying to double its assets once again this year by targeting midsize bank trusts and strengthening its relationships with its trust customers.

The Boston fund company’s trust department has assets of $2 billion — twice what it had in 1999. It aims to become the first or second provider of investment products to its trust clients and one of the top two fund companies in sales through banks, said Michael Fitzgerald, vice president of MFS Trust Group.

To get there, MFS has added resources and salespeople to attract middle-market trusts. Most of the assets held by U.S. bank trusts are housed in larger institutions, but Mr. Fitzgerald said there is plenty of growth opportunity for MFS in midsize bank trusts.

Unlike MFS’ current trust clients, which include 37 of the country’s top 50 banking companies and handle institutional accounts like pension plans, midsize bank trusts deal mostly with high-net-worth individuals and families, Mr. Fitzgerald said. These people often favor conservative investments, such as fixed-income funds, over growth products and require services such as asset allocation advice, he said.

MFS has also come out with a new type of A fund shares for bank trust departments, one that can be bought at net asset value and waives the shares’ load fee.

Mr. Fitzgerald said the company did this because many bank trust departments are taking over the administrative duties for client holdings that had traditionally been handled by mutual fund companies, including generating client statements on holdings, answering questions about available funds, and trading fund shares.

In return, fund companies that pay the bank trusts roughly 25 basis points for performing those services, he said. This lets the banking company generate additional revenue from its trust department without raising client fees, Mr. Fitzgerald said. “Trusts are being asked to shoulder more of their share of revenue at banks.”

Over the past year MFS has introduced a technology fund, a global telecommunications fund, and two hedge funds. It is also developing several other hedge funds that it plans to launch this year, he said. The company hopes these products will help it reel in new trust customers.

MFS also plans to expand its separate accounts program this year, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

In addition to moving up in the middle market, the company wants to get more business from its larger bank clients, he said.

Improving on already close business relationships can be difficult, so MFS hired Penny Group, of Charlotte, N.C., to develop a survey for the company’s top 100 trust clients, Mr. Fitzgerald said. It also plans to put together an advisory board made up of many of its top clients to get feedback, he said.


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