In an attempt to score big with clients, the brokerage and insurance arm of UMB Bank plans to bat out several new products and services within a few months.
Customers of UMB Scout Financial Services Inc. will soon be able to buy and sell stocks on-line, choose from an additional fund family, purchase an array of insurance products, and get advice on stocks, said Michael Luzenske, the unit's vice president.
Observers said the move is in keeping with the efforts of midsize banks to compete against nonbanks.
"UMB is not trying to be the next Merrill Lynch," said Timothy W. Willi, an analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., St. Louis, who covers UMB Financial Corp., the Kansas City, Mo., bank's $7 billion-asset parent. "But one way UMB will be able to keep its customers is to expand its array of financial services."
The first development, expected in the next 30 days, is to let customers buy and sell stock on-line. "Our clients have asked for it. It's another opportunity to provide additional services," said Mr. Luzenske.
The next change - the addition of Franklin Templeton Group to the bank's preferred list of mutual fund families - is to occur in a few weeks. Mr. Luzenske said brokers had been asking for the funds, whose international offerings are especially impressive.
Other fund families on the bank's short list are: Putnam, Fidelity, Massachusetts Financial Services, OppenheimerFunds, Federated Investors, Kemper, and AIM Management Group.
By the end of the summer UMB Scout Insurance Services Inc., a subsidiary of UMB Scout Financial Services, is to begin selling a range of products in addition to the annuities that it already offers.
Moreover, by the fourth quarter, UMB expects to be a full-service provider of stocks. It already offers full service for mutual funds, bonds, and annuities, among other products. A business plan is being drawn up, Mr. Luzenske said.
Richard Ayotte, chief executive officer of American Brokerage Consultants Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla., said that although some banks have offered full service for stocks and other products for more than 15 years, it is never too late to jump on the bandwagon.
He said only about 20% of the population make their own investment decisions, and the remaining 80% seek advice. "Banks really need to be into both sides of the business because they have customers who want both sides," he said.
That's why UMB decided to make the switch, Mr. Luzenske said. "We've got thousands of clients who buy and sell stocks through our brokerage company, and many of them have requested advice and research on companies."
He added that the changes have been in the works for several months. "All of it seems to be coming together now," he said.