SouthTrust Corp. has combined its private banking, brokerage, and trust services - an increasingly popular bank strategy for serving high-net-worth customers.

The Birmingham, Ala., banking company created wealth management teams consisting of private bankers, trust officers, brokers, and business development officers. Clients are assigned to a relationship manager, who in turn refers the client to other members of the team for specific services.

SouthTrust concluded that its wealth management business was suffering from a "silo" mentality, said Richard S. White Jr., an executive vice president in charge of the capital management group. "We came to the conclusion that … if we joined forces we could work more effectively with our customers," he said.

The company has established four wealth management teams in Birmingham and two in Atlanta, and is rolling out the structure across the rest of its region over the next six months, Mr. White said.

The exact composition of the teams, as well as which bank customers get assigned to one, will vary by location, he said. Some teams will focus on special groups, such as medical professionals, business owners, or people who have inherited wealth.

He estimated that roughly 5% to 10% of the bank's clients would eventually be assigned to the teams. The new structure will help SouthTrust capitalize on people whose wealth is growing, such as newly wealthy entrepreneurs and baby boomers who are inheriting money, Mr. White said. The program might also increase customer awareness of areas such as the bank's full-service brokerage, he said.

Many banking companies - including Bank One Corp. of Chicago, Citigroup Inc. of New York, and Sanwa Bank of California - have combined private banking, trust, and brokerage into one unit.

Such a structure increases product awareness across bank departments and helps bankers identify customer needs, said Deborah Hornberger, a principal of the San Francisco consulting firm Hornberger & Associates.

But a team that always works together is less effective than one that a relationship manager assembles for a particular customer, she said. Relationship managers faced with a prefab team tend to refer clients to people outside the team, Ms. Hornberger said.

Mr. White said one advantage of SouthTrust's defined teams is that they will have adjacent offices, facilitating referrals.

The company had already taken a step toward combining its wealth-market businesses late last year, he said. That is when it merged the marketing efforts and financial reporting of the private banking and trust departments. SouthTrust is "seriously looking" for additional ways to operate and meet compliance requirements more efficiently, Mr. White said.

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