UNB Corp. says its purchase of a financial planning firm in its hometown of Canton, Ohio, is a step toward developing a bigger product lineup in general and a bigger wealth management practice in particular.
"I don't want our clients to have a financial services need we can't meet," said Roger Mann, the chairman, chief executive officer, and president of $1.1 billion-asset UNB, the holding company of United Bank & Trust Co. "For the future of our sector - being a financial services corporation rather than a bank - we have to be in wealth management."
UNB, which is also the holding company for a consumer finance company, an insurance agency, a mortgage unit, and an aircraft leasing finance group, completed its purchase of Rownd Financial Advisors Corp. in late June. It sees Rownd as the foundation on which to build the bank's wealth management offerings.
James Pennetti, chief financial officer of the holding company, said, "Rownd brings with it a formal financial planning process, which will hinge into our trust department and private banking, and also get us into high-end insurance."
Rownd will be merged with UNB's insurance agency into a unit called United Financial Advisors Inc., an insurance agency that had long done limited work as a part of the bank, Mr. Pennetti said. "We ran our credit life and accident and health premiums through it, but that was about it."
Robert and Lora Rownd, the father-daughter team who founded the firm, will stay on. Rownd already sells fixed and variable annuities, life insurance, mutual funds, stocks, and bonds through Lincoln Financial Advisors and other carriers. The Rownds will continue to sell these products and advise their clients, as well as UNB's wealth management clients.
United Financial Advisors will be managed by the bank's trust department, which now offers employee benefits, private banking services, and personal trust and asset management services. The department has $1 billion of assets under management.
Some might wonder if community like Canton is affluent enough to justify expanded wealth-management offerings at UNB. Mr. Mann says he is confident that it is.
Three major corporations are based in and around Canton: Diebold Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of automated teller machines; the vacuum cleaner maker Hoover Co.; and the steel manufacturer Timken Co. And several midsize companies have developed around these large ones, Mr. Mann said.
He also noted that Canton is less than an hour from Cleveland, and in between them is Akron, with its own major automotive companies. "There's a lot going on in this corridor - the local airport is expanding," he said. "There's plenty here to support what we're doing."
The area's demographics back Mr. Mann's assertions. There are 440,000 households (about a million people) in the three northern Ohio counties - Summit, Wayne, and Stark - served by the bank. The number of households has been growing by 3.3% annually for the past five years.
Terry McEvoy, an equity analyst with Tucker Anthony Sutro Capital, in Portland, Maine, said the three-county area's wealth level is surprisingly high - its net assets are about $53 billion, he said.
Though the acquisition is a small one - UNB Corp. paid Rownd $255,348.14 in stock - analysts say that it may indeed take the company in the direction Mr. Mann wants to go.
"They've been saying, for the past six months at least, that they've wanted to get into financial planning, and this is a nice complement for their business," said Brad J. Ness, an analyst with Howe Barnes Investments in Chicago.
Mr. Mann has also told analysts that in the next five years he would like to see the bank's fee businesses bring in 40% of its income, and eventually more. "Institutions that are going to be successful must generate 50% of income from noninterest income," he said.
But Mr. McEvoy said the new UNB unit has its work cut out for it - because giants Bank One and Keycorp are well established in northeastern Ohio's wealth management market.