Three years ago, Oaks, Pa.-based SEI Investments, one the largest providers of fund administration, investment management, account and technology services, started a division to focus on community banks and independent trust companies.

Today, SEI Community Investment Services provides trust operations and investment management outsourcing services to 34 community banks and independent trust companies throughout the U.S.

The division's growth is spurred by a bumper crop of new money flowing into community bank trust departments, independent trust companies and start-ups.

At a seminar held last month for SEI Community Investment's clients, almost a third of 21 respondents projected their trust portfolios will have net asset gains of more than 30% per year through the year 2000.

"People in those banks that are thriving have a marketing and sales orientation," said Richard B. Lieb, president of SEI's Investment Systems & Services division. "The whole community banking segment is underestimated," he added.

The size of the trust portfolios at the respondents' institutions ranged from $10 million of asset under management to $700 million. Four start-up trust companies attended too.

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