Thursday, August 23, 2007

May you all have these choices to make

This week's Barron's cover story was on big private banks at large financial institutions vs. small boutique private banks. Cut to the end to get their recommendation:

FOR CUSTOMERS, THEN, PICKING the right bank is going to start with an honest evaluation of your needs -- not only for now but for five or 10 years down the road. A wealthy family that plans to sell its business shortly may need sophisticated cash management, access to corporate-lending products and investment-banking advice in the short term. That would suggest a big bank. But once that business is sold, issues like estate planning, trust creation and philanthropic ventures may become more critical, and firms of all sizes can excel in that area. Since you won't want to switch banks, you might want to consider a smaller institution with a core expertise in estate planning but with good access to outside M&A experts and bankers specializing in family-business sales. That could stand you in good stead for both now and the long haul.

If you want sophisticated hedge-fund strategies, a giant bank is probably the best bet. But if your goal is to structure the right kind of trust for, say, a disabled grandchild, a trust company might give you more attention.