Though more and more banks are buying money managers and providing investment advisory services to get and keep affluent clients, they still have an image problem.
When you ask the affluent what they think of when they hear the word bank, theyll say retail bank. They do not think private banking and investment management, said Damian Kozlowski, global head of business development and strategy and Citigroup Inc. This is why companies such as RBC Centura Banks Inc., in Greenville, S.C., are avoiding the b word in naming their investment management units in RBCs case, Glenwood Capital Management.
Omitting bank was crucial to give the investment management unit its own identity, said Edward Hipp, director of investment sales at RBC Centura.
Glenwood Capital, which started doing business in January, manages $1.8 billion of assets in Centuras family of mutual funds and its trust portfolio, along with assets of high-net-worth customers from RBC Centura and outside the banking company. Mr. Hipp said it is too soon to tell how effective the name is, and he would not say how many high-net-worth clients Glenwood has.
About two-thirds of high-net-worth individuals use professionals for investment advice, a recent survey by Spectrem Group found. Banks are not getting a big piece: Spectrem found that only 4% of those who use advisers go to banks for this help.
U.S. Trust Co.s latest annual survey of the top 1% of affluent Americans made similar findings. Though 29% said they would be more apt to seek advice during volatile times, of these only 32% said they would go to a bank for that guidance. Attorneys and insurance agents were the only two groups to score lower. (U.S. Trust released the survey results last week.)
Given these numbers, it is understandable that banks are being especially careful in packaging their advisory units.
Jeffrey Maurer, chief executive officer at Minneapolis-based U.S. Trust, said: Most banks, in their ads, are trying to position their investment management arms as separate, distinct units, differentiated from its commercial retail banking parts. Its hard to do that under one brand.
But image isnt necessarily everything. David Ross Palmer, a principal in the wealth management practice of Lobue Associates Inc., a Northbrook, Ill., consulting firm, said that, for all this tweaking, banks are still failing to do more than keep 10% of the business at the affluent and wealthy end of the market.
Citigroups Mr. Kozlowski said that having private precede bank in a name seems to work, as in the name of his company unit Citigroup Private Bank.
A private bank is not seen as having a problem offering these services to the high-net-worth individual, he said.
Citigroups private banking unit has not been penalized by its close identification with the banking company, Mr. Kozlowski said. The average customer has assets of $10 million and is more concerned with global service than with the name on the building, he said. In the first quarter, Citigroup Private Banks assets under management from these customers grew 21%.
RBC Centuras Mr. Hipp said commercial banks have to spend by hiring investment managers with strong reputations if they are to overcome the general publics perception that banks are not the place to go for asset management.
It is going to take time, he said, but through convergence, banks will start to gain a higher visibility as money managers.