What was once available to Bank of the West's wealthiest customers is now available to customers of more modest means.
The San Francisco-based regional bank extended portfolio management and asset allocation services to clients with $50,000 in investable assets. The services offered through the bank's Investment Advisory Solutions platform were previously only available to the bank's trust clients.
The move is part of a wider strategy to extend in-house capabilities to other clients within the bank, said John Morris, head of Investment Solutions for Bank of the West's Wealth Management Group. It also represents a shift in the bank's brokerage unit from transaction-based to advisory, fee-based business.
"The advisor works with clients not on a transactional basis but more on a longer-term fiduciary and advisory relationship," Morris explained. Customers are charged a starting fee of 1.5% on their assets under management.
The Investment Advisory Solutions platform employs "open architecture," meaning customers have access to a variety of mutual funds and ETFs through multiple money managers.
The investment strategies offered through the platform have been available to trust clients since 2006. Clients with lower asset levels now have the ability to invest in more advanced strategies and to be more time sensitive to movements in the markets, said Cheryl Farley, Bank of the West's Silicon Valley market leader.
Advisors and their clients have enthusiastically embraced the new platform, which has more than doubled in asset size year-over-year, according to Morris. The Bank of the West Mutual Fund Strategies has been especially popular, attracting a "significant chunk of the new assets, he said.
"We are getting a phenomenal response from not only our advisors but clients," said Farley.
Clients appreciate the platform's open architecture because it allows them to "work with one advisor to get what they need without having to go to a lot of different mutual funds outside of that," Farley said. "It's simple and easy-to-use but complex enough to accomplish what they're looking for."
The bank is reaching out to a broader range of customers in other ways. It recently launched a new online brokerage platform that links the banking and brokerage sides within Bank of the West through one unique sign-on. The platform, which launched May 22, allows the bank's self-directed clients to access more than 1,000 mutual funds from a number of mutual fund companies, Morris said. It also provides customers with no-load mutual funds for the first time.
The online brokerage platform supports the bank's strategy to broaden its service offerings to customers across the wealth spectrum from high-end trust customers to do-it-yourself investors. "It's another example of how we're becoming broad and offering our clients a number of ways to access the various solutions they need for their financial objectives," Morris said.