Wilmington Trust Corp. is expanding its California presence by targeting newly wealthy dot-commers in an unlikely market: Orange County, an old-money bastion several hundred miles south of Silicon Valley.
The company is betting that, given the stock markets volatility this year, and the hits new-wealth portfolios have taken as a result, these people are now far more interested in getting advice and assistance deploying their retirement assets.
The office, Wilmingtons 14th, is to be opened in July in Costa Mesa on the California coast about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles. It would be the companys second in the area the first was opened three years ago in Santa Monica.
To run the new office, the Delaware trust company has hired a veteran developer of individual high-net-worth business from a competitor. The executive, Nella Webster, was a senior business development officer at U.S. Trust for the past eight years.
Ms. Webster, who started with Wilmington Trust on Monday, said it is focusing on newly wealthy dot-commers with more than $1 million of assets who now are seeking a less self-directed approach to managing their retirement portfolios.
Once they had $3 or $4 million, and now they have $1 or $2 million, she said. So investors are more likely to set aside their online brokerage and turn to a person for help.
This is true despite the economic slump, she said.
Ms. Webster also said she hopes the companys relationship management approach will draw clients away from competitors such as Northern Trust and U.S. Trust, which have also been pursuing this market.
Wilmington Trusts advisers, who bear the title relationship manager, take a comprehensive approach to managing their client relationships, she said. They not only acquire new business but also continue to handle the day-to-day aspects of their clients overall finances as their connection with the company matures, she said.
The relationship managers keep an eye on the clients portfolios, advise them about possible shifts in asset allocations, provide product information, and, if needed, refers them to outside portfolio managers and financial planners with which the company has strategic alliances, Ms. Webster said.
The company has alliances with two independent asset management firms: Roxbury Capital Management in Santa Monica, which specializes in growth-oriented investing, and Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn in New York, which specializes in value-oriented investing. If a client prefers bonds, Wilmington will manage that portfolio in-house, she said.
Wilmington Trust has $26.1 billion of assets under its own management, and an additional $12.4 billion at Roxbury Capital and Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn. By outsourcing growth and value investing, the company can give its customers the best service available, Ms. Webster said.
The market is ripe for relationship managers who take Wilmingtons approach, which is different from any of its competitors in Orange County, such as Northern Trust and U.S. Trust, she said.
At both of those firms, a business development officer finds the business, brings it in, turns it over to the portfolio manager or trust administrator, and then moves on, Ms. Webster said. That is not relationship management. The appeal here is maintaining the relationship. We want people to walk away saying, I was well taken care of.
Wilmington Trust also compensates its reps through a profit-sharing plan that is based on the total amount of assets their clients have with the firm.
Scott Slater, a director at Spectrem Group in Chicago, compared Wilmingtons approach to that of a personal shopper. Though most of the companys target clients are intelligent and tech-savvy, they dont know that much about implementing a personal investing plan, he said. These are busy people, looking for convenience.
Ms. Webster said she is leveraging her relationships with clients she had at U.S. Trust to persuade them to follow her to Wilmington. She also expects to announce, within the next few weeks, that some personnel from U.S. Trust will join her there.