For the past two years, Bank of the West has assiduously courted high-net-worth clients. But now it's starting to spread the love more broadly.
The San Francisco-based bank recently made a series of moves to attract the long-neglected mass-affluent customer. In August, it launched a retirement sales site, offering education, tools and a more robust capability to help the mass-affluent customer with retirement planning.
The site launch followed the bank's decision in June to extend high-end advisory services, once only available to its wealthiest customers, to the less affluent-those who have $50,000 in investable assets. It also launched an online investing platform that linked customers' banking and investment accounts for the first time.
The new retirement sales site, which the bank will soon start promoting, offers 1,500 no-load mutual funds, retirement planners, and mutual fund and ETF "screeners" to help the mass affluent filter funds by fees, performance and other criteria.
"We are very focused on better serving the mass affluent," John Bahnken, head of the bank's Wealth Management Group, said in an interview.
The bank is wooing customers with both services and rewards. Customers who move $25,000 to $50,000 into Bank of the West retirement accounts receive $100. Those who move more than $250,000 receive $600. The rewards are placed into customers' retirement accounts, Bahnken said.
"We will start to lean into this in the fourth quarter and then very actively pursue this client base in 2014 on multiple levels," Bahnken said. "In 2014, we will start to bring the entire offer together, which is integrated banking and investing, with a branded program around it."
The new offering, yet unnamed, is the U.S. version of the mass-affluent program that its parent, BNP Paribas, rolled out in Europe 18 months ago called "Priority."
The U.S. program has been adapted to reflect regulatory, cultural, and other differences between the U.S. and European wealth management markets.
The push into the mass-affluent market marks a new focus for Bahnken who until now has concentrated on building the bank's high-net-worth business.
Since he joined Bank of the West in 2011, he opened eight wealth management client centers for the exclusive use of affluent and high-net-worth clients, hired a slew of relationship managers or "private client advisors," and formed Private Client Services, the bank's high-net-worth unit, which Bahnken says has been growing at a robust pace.
Bahnken is also setting his sights up-market, looking to pursue the ultra-high-net-worth. The bank plans to leverage the global capabilities of BNP Paribas, which has expertise in alternative products such as derivatives, hedge funds and private equity, to attract ultra-wealthy clients with more than $25 million in investable assets.
"As we start to build out our ultra-high-net-worth space, we will leverage these capabilities for American clients who are looking to invest in Europe or Asia," said Bahnken.
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