Coutts & Company Group has introduced a line of products to help its foreign clients reap the benefits of investing in the United States - without taking on unwanted risk.
Dubbed Coutts Strategic Deposits, the new products guarantee an investor's principal. Returns are linked to the performance of various indexes and investment strategies and have the potential to exceed rates offered on traditional certificates of deposit.
As the private banking arm of London's National Westminster Bank, Coutts is known primarily for its work for the British Royal Family. Now, it is looking to raise its international profile and reach investors who may have a dated impression of the company.
"They've been looked at as a traditional provider of products and services," said Les Dinkin, managing principal of NBW Consulting Group Inc., Westport, Conn. "This gives them the opportunity to provide their clients with some additional options and alternatives."
Coutts is offering the new product through its 30 offices in 16 countries. Its three-year-old New York outpost is targeting wealthy clients from Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East who want to bank and invest in the United States.
The bank is not alone in pursuing that market. Many private banking units in the United States, whether in U.S. banks such as Chase Manhattan Corp. or SunTrust Banks Inc. or in the American branches of Swiss banks, are eager for an international clientele.
"All of us have a similar product set and continue to build our business prospects on understanding client needs," said Neil E. Colley, the Americas regional marketing head for Coutts & Co. "But other institutions focus more on product.
"We don't - this happens to be another arrow in our quiver," he said.
Many private banks try "loss leader" products - such as short-term certificates of deposit with high rates of return - to introduce themselves to wealthy foreign clients. Mr. Colley said Coutts shuns that strategy.
"We don't believe in loss leaders," he said; "we believe in relationships. That's mass-market, retail mentality. It's not right for our institution or our clients."
Coutts' specialized deposits are offered in two ways.
First, the bank decides every week on a strategy tied to underlying investments, such as the S&P 500 index or currencies plays, and designs "an off-the-shelf, standardized product" with three-month, six-month or one- year durations.
Second, clients can ask Coutts to tailor structured deposits to meet specific needs. The British refer to these as bespoke products.