Investors with modest portfolios can find themselves in a dilemma when it comes to choosing an institution to help them manage their assets. The fact is, smaller clients entirely too often get left behind at the biggest banks, mutual fund companies or brokerage houses.
Keeping a close eye on our competitors, I know that most of the big guys have account minimums - expressed in the dollar value of invested assets - that exclude smaller clients. Either they won’t accept the business at all or if they do, the smaller accounts are assigned to a call center somewhere, rather than an individual advisor or team.
What happens is the investor never sees an advisor face-to-face. It would be a stroke of luck if that advisor is even in the same state! So, small investors must settle for a “1-800” trust officer to handle their needs.
Needless to say, that sort of anonymous, long-distance relationship is unlikely to get very deep into the investor’s objectives or such important matters as risk tolerance, time frames or family situations.
That’s an important distinction we like to make between how Old North State Trust works with our clients and what our big competitors do. We don’t have minimums. We don’t pass our clients to faceless functionaries at the other end of a telephone line or email connection.
As long as the fit is right for both us and the client, we will accept his or her business and work with the client as we do with all clients - by personally getting to know their situations and their concerns and ensuring we are available to them when needed.
That’s not to say we’ll necessarily take on just any business that comes along. Our standard for accepting a client hinges on our ability to add value for that client. Also, it’s essential that a prospective client likes and needs what we offer – and how we operate.
Those decisions are always based on individual client situations, usually after an extensive conversation. It’s never just a matter of numbers.
I recently read an interesting article about how big, aggressive wealth-management firms have been trying hard to pull customers away from more traditional trust businesses like local banks and state-focused companies like ours. Much of the motivation is the ability to sell financial products that carry higher commissions and profits, as well as offering such lucrative services as insurance and stock brokerage.
Technology is one thing driving this, of course. Computerization, databases and online tools have made it easy for the biggest firms to offer a huge range of financial products, both their own and those offered by third parties.
That might seem to be an advantage for a huge company but we believe having a vast number of financial products to choose from isn’t the most important thing a good investment advisor has to offer. Sure, we can help with the same products the “big boys” handle. But we make a point of understanding the client’s needs - and the product’s suitability to those needs and objectives – rather than just looking at return-on-investment numbers from a database.
Some of the biggest new players in the trust business are very large mutual fund companies and brokerages. The article I mentioned argues that these companies see their trust customers (and this definitely applies to those with smaller portfolios) as loss leaders. The point is to get their business in the door, and away from community-based competitors.
Anyone who needs the sorts of services a good trust operation provides – creating and managing trusts, investment advice and portfolio management – is invited to contact us and begin the conversation about whether we would be a good fit. It’s that fit, not an arbitrary dollar cut-off, that’s the key to a productive and trustworthy relationship for both parties.
Old North State Trust, LLC (ONST) periodically produces publications as a service to clients and friends. The information contained in these publications is intended to provide general information about issues related to trust, investment and estate related topics. Readers should be aware that the facts may vary depending upon individual circumstances. The information contained in these publications is intended solely for informational purposes, is proprietary to ONST and is not guaranteed to be accurate, complete or timely.
Susan Willett is the director of trust services and oversees all aspects of trust administration for Old North State Trust, LLC. Old North State Trust, a North Carolina chartered trust company, provides: asset management services; income, estate and trust tax consulting; retirement planning and administration; and trustee and estate services to both individuals and businesses. Old North State Trust professionals have many years of experience and for over a decade have assisted clients in identifying and reaching their financial goals. For more information, visit www.oldnorthstatetrust.com or call 910-399-5470.
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