American Banker

The Right High-Net-Worth Model

The Right High-Net-Worth Model

What do you do after the acquisition binge is over? If you are a bank pining for top-line growth, one of your best bets is to go after investment products.

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The Right High-Net-Worth Model

What do you do after the acquisition binge is over? If you are a bank pining for top-line growth, one of your best bets is to go after investment products.

This is not an area in which most banks have excelled. Fewer than 5% of branch banking customers have signed up for full-service brokerage accounts at leaders such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank One Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., or Wachovia Corp., but the potential for top-line growth and profits is significant.

One key to getting good results is targeting the affluent segment of existing customers, those with $100,000 to $2 million of investable assets. The key to capturing these assets is to satisfy affluent customers' strong desire for financial advice and planning.

But there's a catch: Nearly three quarters of banking customers do not believe banks have expertise in investments and financial advice. Even banks' best existing customers need to be convinced. One obvious reason is that few bank employees are properly licensed and trained to sell mutual funds and other investment products.

Success in the investment area requires developing a solid strategy and delivery system that succeeds in the branch. Among several basic strategic models, two stand out:

Referrals. Wells Fargo & Co. achieved its 59% share of customers' investable assets with its "referral-based model," in which bank reps refer customers with investment needs (beyond proprietary mutual funds and annuity products) to its investment consultants, who assume the lead customer relationship.

Teaming. Wachovia Corp., which boasts a 36% share of its customers' investable assets, relies on a "teaming model." Its financial specialists acquire banking customers and serve their banking and basic investment needs (proprietary mutual funds), but work in concert with brokers to provide their broader investment offerings.

Brokers receive incentives to train and develop the financial specialists. For instance, if financial specialists meet their sales goals, brokers get 20% to 30% overrides on financial specialists' production. The financial specialists, in turn, can earn 20% of their compensation from incentives for referring customers to brokers. Hence brokers' primary job is to train financial specialists in products, identification of investment needs, and sales skills.

A third model, split-service, can be a costly turnoff. In a split-service model, responsibility for acquiring and serving banking needs resides with its bankers. Tellers and platform bankers refer clients to investment consultants, who focus on the investment share of wallet.

The problem with this model is the lack of a well-defined customer relationship manager: Bankers see to banking needs, and investment counselors oversee investment needs. This leads to high expense levels and customer confusion. PNC Financial Corp., which uses this model, has been able to snare only about a 20% share of its affluent customers' wallet.

So how can banks seize the day in the high-net-worth market? After they select a strategic model that best fits their circumstances and their vision, they need to focus on five key levers:

Products. Instead of relying on all propriety investment offerings, develop a profitable mix of proprietary and third-party products. Shoot for a high percentage of packaged products.

Compensation and incentives. Keep the percent of bonus-related compensation related closely to the volume of investments for financial specialists, brokers, branch managers, and regional investment officers.

Training. Develop skills in planning, repeat sales, and segment your focus on affluent customers. Shoot for getting close to 100% of platform officers certified at Series 6 level; assign each platform officer to a certified investment consultant as a mentor.

Organization. Centralize the handling of errors and complaints. Do not scrimp on state-of-the art software to review trades. Develop a clear reporting structure and top-notch service and back-office support.

Brand investment. Focus on developing internal awareness and communication and brand extension to investments.


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