Provident Bank's wealth management group is betting that wealthy people are fed up with being nickel-and-dimed by their banks.
Provident, a Jersey City institution, is counting on a new grouping of products and services — one without surprise fees — to help expand its assets under management from $300 million, to $1 billion within four years, according to James Nesci, a senior vice president and the chief wealth management officer.
"We hear a lot of times from people who are tired" that their banks keep trying to multiply fees, said Nesci, whose unit focuses on clients with at least $1 million to $5 million of investable assets.
Provident, which has $6.8 billion of assets, says it plans to start aggressively marketing its Signature Wealth package this fall. Signature Wealth includes a dedicated wealth adviser, a checking account, a line of credit, a debit card and personal concierge service.
The package is available for Provident's wealth management asset management fee, which starts at 1% of assets for clients with $1 million to invest. Its lines of credit are accessed through the debit cards; clients' wealth management accounts serve as collateral for the credit lines.
The bank says it believes the arrangement will be appealing because it adds an option for getting large amounts of cash quickly.
For example, if a client needs to make a college tuition payment, he or she might do that by cashing out part of the investment portfolio. But in a volatile market, this might mean realizing losses. The debit card alternative gives the client access to cash and then perhaps the ability to repay the loan out of the investment portfolio in more favorable market conditions.
The line of credit interest rate is prime plus two percentage points, and the cards do not impose the often steep setup and annual fees associated with exclusive "black cards."
The concierge service is another offering that could prove attractive to wealthy individuals and families, said Nesci, whose team includes 15 relationship managers. Its ranks grow by one or two every two months. Concierge services, often supplied by a third party, help with everything from finding theater tickets to planning parties or lining up a private jet.
Charging a standard wealth management fee for multiple products and services might seem to sacrifice profit margin for asset growth. This is only somewhat true, Nesci insisted.
"At the $1 million account level, we may be sacrificing margin," he said. "But we attract a lot of accounts with more than $1 million, accounts with $3 million to $5 million, and at that level, it works well."
This is true even though larger accounts command fees smaller than 1%; the wealthiest clients pay just 50 basis points, said Nesci.
Not charging extra fees is a small price to pay for the potential to build assets under management, which can throw off a reliable income stream year in and year out, said Sophie Schmidt, a senior wealth management analyst at the Aite Group LLC research firm in Boston.
The $1 million minimum is a good threshold, she said, noting that similar programs with lower thresholds have failed in the past.
Signature Wealth is the first wealth management product developed under Nesci, who joined Provident in March 2009. Before this he was the chief operating officer of national wealth management at Wilmington Trust Corp. in Delaware.
Nesci spent his first several months laying the groundwork for growth, including hiring asset managers and building a trading platform.
One of his biggest accomplishments was converting nearly all the wealth management business' $100 million of custodied assets into assets under management.
That $100 million was in trust vehicles at the bank, but it was self-managed by clients. Under Nesci, Provident persuaded these clients to let its experts manage their money.
Provident says it hopes that Signature Wealth will attract clients, but it is also offering the arrangement to existing ones. The bank hopes to attract a wealth management clientele mainly from big firms, using convenience as part of its differentiator, Nesci said.
"We have 82 branches," he said. "We are close to your house."
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