Following an industry trend, NationsBank Corp. has announced plans to integrate its private banking and personal trust services under one umbrella.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based banking company said it will combine its private banking and personal trust groups, along with a portfolio management group serving about 120 affluent individuals. The combined entity will be called the private client group.
As a result of the integration, set to be completed in the fourth quarter, 30 of NationsBank's current private banking offices and 70 of its trust offices will be combined into 62 private client units across the country.
The private client group will target individuals with at least $1 million in investable assets.
The private client group will be co-headed by NationsBank group executives J. Tim Arnoult and David W. Fisher, the two executives formerly in charge of private banking and personal trust, respectively.
Integration of trust and private banking services has been a growing trend in the banking industry for several years as banks began to look for better ways to cross-sell services.
"It is potentially a very powerful marketing threat to the many banks who are still mired in their non-integrated organizations," said David Ross Palmer, a New York-based trust and private banking consultant. About half of the top 100 banks in the country have gone the way of integration, Mr. Palmer said.
But he warned that the integration may not work if more than one person is put in charge.
As it stands now, Mr. Arnoult will oversee 23 private client group offices in the 18 largest metropolitan areas, as well as seven international private banking offices. He will continue to report to NationsBank South chairman Hugh M. Chapman.
For his part, Mr. Fisher will head 39 private client group offices outside metropolitan areas, as well as two trust and investment teleservicing offices in Atlanta and Dallas. Mr. Fisher will continue to report to James B. Sommers, president of NationsBank Trust and Investment.
Overall, the private client group will consist of 1,800 professionals. At the top, about 400 relationship managers will serve as the single point of contact for the client.
Working with the relationship managers will be a host of other executives, including about 120 investment counselors, renamed from portfolio managers; an undecided number of fiduciary consultants, formerly known as trust officers; and about 12 financial counselors, who will give tax, estate, and financial planning to clients with at least $5 million in assets.
The advantage to customers, Mr. Fisher said, is a single person handling all their banking needs, and a lower pricing structure, depending on the volume of business with the bank. What brought home the need for the change, according to Mr. Fisher and Mr. Arnoult, was a recent survey that showed bank customers often became confused when contacted by more than one NationsBank officer for similar services.
Competition from nonbanks also played a significant part in the change, Mr. Fisher said. To counter that competition, NationsBank has been marketing a portfolio teleservicing unit. The service, which resembles those of Fidelity and Charles Schwab, allows people with less than $500,000 in investable assets to call in for trust and investment services.
In addition, the bank plans to kick off a unit that would handle administrative chores like bill paying and compliance work, thus allowing officers to spend more time on clients - possibly close to the 50% that brokers are known to spend selling, Mr. Arnoult said.