Wells Fargo & Co.'s private bank has expanded into Chicago a program that offers aging clients a range of support services.
Chicago is now the easternmost outpost of a program the San Francisco banking company sees as a key offering for the wealthier customers its private bank serves, said Keith Klovee-Smith, senior vice president and national manager of Wells Fargo Elder Services.
"When Wells Fargo surveys clients about wealth issues, they almost always prioritize life management concerns on top," he said. "Bankers tend to talk about these issues as being 'soft issues,' but I don't think of it like that."
The Elder Services program now has 65 specialists who serve about 250 clients, he said. It is available in 15 states and should be available in metropolitan areas coast to coast "within the next couple of years," he said. The program provides assistance with everything from paying bills to managing commercial real estate to monitoring health. So far, it is more often used directly by aging individuals concerned with maintaining independence and quality of life than by the sandwich-generation children who feel responsible for their care, Mr. Klovee-Smith said.
The combined fees for private banking and Elder Services are 2% of assets annually for a client with up to $2 million of assets, he said. The Elder Services program started in 1997 in Minneapolis. Executives had noticed that Wells' trust officers were doing everything from taking aging clients' pets to the vet to turning their sprinkler systems on and off, Mr. Klovee-Smith said.
Concerned that the trust officers were putting themselves into situations outside their specialties, and cognizant of the vast numbers of aging Americans, the bank created a formal program. It now lines up outside professionals across a range of specialties from health care to pet care for its clients, Mr. Klovee-Smith said.
In Chicago, Wells will share a market with Harris Private Bank, the wealth management arm of Bank of Montreal's Harris Bank. In September Harris Private announced enCircle, a program similar to Wells' Elder Services. Debbie Korompilas, senior vice president and head of trust and estate services at Harris Private, said she "welcome the competition."
"With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, this is an underserviced group," she said.
Concierge services have long been available to the wealthiest Americans, but Ms. Korompilas said Harris Private's research has found Harris and Wells appear to be the only institutions with programs that meet older people's life management needs.
Harris borrowed the model from Bank of Montreal, which offered it in Canada for more than three years. In the United States, Harris sees Wells Fargo as the only rival, she said. "People are focusing more on the fiduciary aspect versus overall client service," said Ms. Korompilas, whose company offers enCircle from offices in Illinois, Washington State, Arizona, and Florida. "Our research has not revealed any other competitor other than Wells doing this."
Harris and Wells offer their programs to clients with investable assets as low as $1 million. Wells' Elder Services specialists help clients tailor the program to their life management needs, working with their lawyers, accountants, insurance specialists, and health-care companies.
Teams from Wells schedule regular check-ins at clients' homes to monitor their needs and help protect them from physical, emotional, and financial abuse, according to the bank. The Elder Services program also keeps family updated according to the client's wishes and helps with sensitive matters such as giving up driver's licenses, moving into retirement homes, or planning funerals.
In September Wells hired Allison Getz to run its Chicago effort. Ms. Getz founded Chicagoland Caregivers and ran the company for over six years until it was sold last year to LivHOME Inc. of Los Angeles.