Have you thought about offering your customers wealth management services? The fee opportunities are attractive and the regulatory issues are more manageable than you might think.

Why should a bank’s board directors consider entering the wealth management business? For one, several of your competitors are already doing so. Wells Fargo already employs over 15,000 financial advisors and is looking to serve an even broader swath of the mass market than it already does. And, according to the American Banker, approximately 25% of all banks plan to offer wealth management services by the end of 2016, according to a survey conducted by that publication. If that survey data is representative across the banking industry, your board would not be in the leading edge if you are not considering the risks and rewards of building or acquiring a wealth management division.

This article assumes that U.S. community banks are not looking to compete directly with the largest private banks in advising billionaires on anything from buying a private jet to investments in complex derivatives. Instead, most community banks will offer basic wealth management services, including administering retirement assets held in 401(k) plans and IRAs, advice in setting up educational and health savings plans and perhaps basic trust services to assist in administering family trusts. Other service offerings, such as insurance, securities custody, securities lending, securities clearing and settlement, are sometimes considered part of wealth management or trust services, but this article does not discuss those other services because they are generally not a good fit for community banks, at least in the early stages of launching a wealth management division. Basic wealth management services are, at least in theory, a natural complement to the business of offering deposit services and loans to wealthier bank customers.

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