To get new business, many private bankers are getting closer to clients-literally.
Marshall & Ilsley Trust Company of Arizona, which has $2 billion of assets under administration, plans to open an office in March in Sun City West, Ariz. The subsidiary of Milwaukee's Marshall & Ilsley Corp. also moved its headquarters last week to Scottsdale from Phoenix to be nearer clients and prospects.
Similarly, Beverly Hills' City National Corp. is sending a team of private bankers to the nearby affluent communities of Newport and Irvine.
Augmenting the move is City National's acquisition of Harbor Bancorp, Long Beach, Calif., which is scheduled to close Friday.
The careful selection of specific communities-even neighborhoods-is well practiced by several private banks, particularly Chicago's Northern Trust Corp. It has 62 offices around the country.
"Where other providers try to centralize, it's a conscious decision to put our people close to our target markets," said Mark Stevens, executive vice president in charge of personal financial services at Northern Trust.
Mr. Stevens added that the premise is to be recognized more as a local institution than a national player. Northern's model, which he referred to as "upscale community banking," extends deep into Florida and is being installed in Arizona, California, and Texas.
Michael McCartney, vice president and head of sales for M&I's Arizona trust subsidiary, said the move to Scottsdale would bring it closer to the homes of its clients-many of whom work in Phoenix. These people would prefer to visit Marshall & Ilsley with their spouses, he said.
He added that retirees in Scottsdale had also appreciated the convenience of an existing, smaller office there.
"In Phoenix people do a lot of driving," Mr. McCartney said. "We do have a lot of person-to-person meetings to review their portfolios. When doing that, it's important to make yourself convenient."
City National, for its part, has traditionally had no trouble drawing clients and prospects to its Beverly Hills headquarters. But after spreading out geographically by announcing five bank acquisitions in two years, it wants to put private bankers in new territories, its executives said.
Proximity to clients' homes is important, but bankers should not go into clients' living rooms, warned David Ross Palmer, an East Falmouth, Mass., private banking consultant. Mr. Palmer said surveys he did of millionaires showed that they prefer visiting an office to playing host to a money manager.
Despite increased use of e-mail and telephones to make stock trades and conduct other transactions, wealthy investors still want to sit down in a formal setting to talk about involved financial situations, such as estate plans, Mr. Palmer said.
"When you go to somebody's office, you get some idea, particularly if it's the first time, of how professional they are," he said.