When the online wealth management company EnvestNet designed its advisory support services, it didnt really have banks in mind.
Executives at the Chicago company imagined its array of wealth-management support services would be of interest mainly to independent investment advisers.
But since its September launch, two Midwest community banks have signed up with EnvestNet, which now thinks banks may turn out to be big customers, said Mary MacLachlan, its president and chief investment officer.
EnvestNet provides a variety of services to financial advisers to help them attract and keep high-net-worth customers. The core service links financial advisers to high-end money managers on the Internet.
The Web site allows EnvestNets clients to offer their customers separate account portfolios overseen by high-end investment managers for a fraction of what it would cost them otherwise, Ms. MacLachlan said.
EnvestNet also helps advisers establish and administer trusts for their customers and creates private-label Web sites for advisers that contain ongoing news and market data. EnvestNet also helps its advisory clients manage internal information such as prospect lists, customer data, and sales strategies, Ms. MacLachlan said.
Typically, advisers working with EnvestNet work only for people worth $10 million or more, Ms. MacLachlan said. But EnvestNet makes it profitable to set account balance minimums as low as $100,000, she said.
EnvestNet typically charges its advisory clients 125 basis points per $100,000, Ms. MacLachlan said, though that rate is reduced when accounts pass $1 million. Of the 125 points, roughly 50 or 60 pay for access to the investment managers, 25 for clearing and brokerage services, and 50 for EnvestNets own due diligence, she said.
To avoid alienating its advisory clients, the company does not offer investment advice directly to investors. The last thing we want to do is compete with them, Ms. MacLachlan said.
EnvestNet is now managing $850 million of assets for 40 advisers, she said.
EnvestNet did not go out looking for banks as clients, said Judson Bergman, its chief executive officer. Weve been responsive to banks inquiries, he said. Weve not been proactive.
But Ms. MacLachlan said banks will need services such as EnvestNets to capitalize on the growing population of wealthy investors. Banks are looking for intermediaries to supply products and help attract such customers, she said.
Charles Wendel, president of Financial Institutions Consulting in New York, said such investors will be increasingly demanding as more companies form to serve them. And Mr. Bergman said bank trust departments will be forced to accommodate their high-end customers demands for new products and services to prevent them from defecting to competitors.
Mr. Wendel said that community banks, few of which can afford high-end investment management, will need services such as EnvestNet more than larger banks will. Community banks dont have the money or the expertise to develop proprietary technology, he said.