Banks that have shaken up their approach to targeting wealthy clients are reaping benefits.
For some banks, streamlining the services they offer the affluent-trust, investment management, and private banking-into one group has spurred gains. For others, simply changing the target customer and redoing the menu product has helped.
National City Corp., based in Cleveland, took a cue from peers around the country in April 1996 when it created a private client group, rather than watch different departments chase the same clients.
"I'm not trying to be pejorative to the trust world, but it was time for a change, and we made that change," said Jeffrey M. Biggar, executive vice president of National City's private client group.
Since its formation, the group has had annual growth rates of 20% in revenues, 30% in net income, 28% in assets under administration, 22% in loans, and 21% in deposits, according to National City.
"In the old world, we were seeing nominal growth in trust revenues and trust assets under management," Mr. Biggar said. "They were selling at the tail end of a life cycle and not gearing up to sell to the emerging affluent."
The clientele has changed too. Most account sizes range from $750,000 to $1 million, up from $250,000 to $500,000 in 1997, Mr. Biggar said. Total assets under management for private clients is $33 billion, compared with $18 billion in 1997.
New York-based Bessemer Trust Co. has taken a different tack by targeting younger, newly affluent customers.
Eighty-five percent of new clients are the first generation in their families to be wealthy. Two-thirds of its client base in 1994 were families with old money.
Bessemer managed $23 billion of assets at the end of 1998, compared with just under $10 billion at the end of 1994. Revenues last year were $150 million, up from $70 million in 1994.
Until recently Bessemer had not changed much since its founding in 1907, said Donald J. Herrema, the chief executive officer.
Its heritage is "both a blessing and a curse," said Mr. Herrema, who was speaking in New York last week at a wealth management conference sponsored by the Institute for Investment Management Consultants.
To erase its stodgy image, Bessemer added investment offerings such as exchange-listed funds and a family of funds that tap into other managers' hedge funds.
Banks have been forced to change their sales approach by increased competition in the 1990s. Brokerages have become trustees and independent advisers have increased their investment management market share.
Over the last three years independent advisers have been the winners, said John Bowen, the chief executive of Reinhardt, Werba Bowen, an investment advisory firm in San Jose, Calif.
Independent advisers increased the assets they control last year by 36%, Mr. Bowen said at the conference Thursday. Their closest competitors were discount brokers, who increased assets 35%, while banks' assets grew 8%, Mr. Bowen said.