A quick glance at the article on blended families, with its mention of multiple specialized trust structures, conveys the sophistication and diversity of solutions available to high-net-worth individuals as they seek to optimize, protect and transfer assets.
This was not always the case. The trust industry was slow to gain adherents when the concept was first introduced in the U.S. during the 1800s, initially in large cities in the Northeast. As personal wealth began to shift from farm lands and other tangible property to business ownership and holdings of stocks and bonds, the process of passing legacies to beneficiaries became more challenging, particularly in cases where it was advisable – because of age or lack of experience – to control when and how those assets passed to the next generation.
Over time, a number of companies were authorized in their charters to hold money or property in trust in a special account separate from their other business. Clearly, the word “trust” reflected the nature of this fiduciary relationship. Among states to the south, North Carolina would prove to be a pioneer in the evolution of trust services. So was the small banking company in Wilson, N.C., that ultimately became today’s BB&T Corporation.
Its founder, Alpheus Branch, and several other prominent businessmen in the Wilson area procured a charter from the North Carolina General Assembly in 1889. The charter allowed the bank several rights including the right to create a trust department. After several years awaiting amended bank regulation, the bank began its trust department in 1907, and its name was changed to Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T) in 1913.
BB&T’s growth reflected the progressive mindset of its leaders as well as its location in one of the first states to allow statewide branch banking. In each community, it offered a highly personalized combination of banking and trust services, laying the foundation for its strength today as a highly respected fiduciary and nationally acclaimed provider of wealth services for clients across its 12-state footprint.
Michael Stajduhar, who recently retired after a 35-year career as a personal trust officer based in Charleston, W.Va., describes some of the dramatic changes he has witnessed since joining Kanawha Valley Bank in 1977.
“In 1977 in our small local bank, technology was quite undeveloped. Our department had switched its trust accounting system from handwritten records to an early computerized version not quite a decade before I arrived. That system was quite advanced for its time and did provide trust officers with good information, but was difficult to access apart from the reports that showed up on our desks each morning.
“To be sure, the vast improvements in technology since that time have played a major role in changing the trust industry. It is also hard to deny the effects of banking consolidation, as waves of mergers and acquisitions combined trust departments into ever larger units. For example, Kanawha Valley Bank, located solely in Charleston, W.Va., evolved into One Valley Bank, located in both West Virginia and Virginia, and was then acquired by BB&T in 2000.
“However, I believe an under-appreciated factor in change has been the marketplace itself. More entities are now in place to provide a wider array of trust services in response to the increased demand for these services from trust clients. What client today would be content, for example, to have his or her trust account tied up in common trust funds that could only be liquidated on a monthly, or even quarterly, basis? Would he be satisfied to receive a cursory report of the account’s investment performance only upon his request and with no reference to benchmarks? As a trust beneficiary, would he accept a decree from his trust officer that this document is ‘carved in stone’ and nothing can be done to address his legitimate needs?
“Compared with 1977, today’s trust clients have so many more possibilities. Various types of reporting are now available to them upon request (think, for example, of online access). Investment options have gone from the traditional stocks, bonds and cash to include sophisticated options and alternative investments (real estate funds, commodities, small cap international funds, global bond funds, etc.).
“BB&T’s Wealth model provides a team approach to serving the client. With a Wealth advisor leading the effort, and a variety of specialists to call upon, the client can be in touch with whomever is needed, from the Portfolio Manager to the Insurance Specialist to the High-Net-Worth Lender, and is not limited to contact with just the Personal Trust Specialist. The focus on integrated, strategic planning offers a more comprehensive approach to meeting the client’s total financial needs.
“Thankfully, a few things will never change in the world of the Trust Officer – the desire to help people meet their personal and family goals, the ability to look long-term through multiple generations, the professional commitment that makes working in Trust a calling that transcends a business career. BB&T is fortunate to have many Personal Trust Specialists with these qualities.”