Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. hopes that by maintaining its localized approach to wealth management it can continue to organically grow its trust business by cross-selling services to its roster of wealthy clients.
Brown Brothers Harriman Trust Co. N.A. is based in New York, but the trust business maintains offices in Boston, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Chicago to bring trust services directly to clients.
Brett Sovine, who was promoted Wednesday to president and chief executive officer of the trust company, said the approach is unique at a time when many companies are centralizing trust operations to save money on the backend.
Five years ago, Brown Brothers Harriman, which had $38.2 billion in assets under management as of Dec. 31, had state chartered trust units in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York, and though it applied to become a national trust company, Sovine said the intention was never to centralize operations.
“We have always chosen a more client-centric trust model,” he said. “Service is the key to wealth management and localized delivery, including fiduciary support, is important for our clients.”
Sovine, who was a managing director for the trust unit based in Charlotte prior to his promotion, will continue to manage his current client relationships as well as oversee the national trust company and regional trust heads. He will continue to be based in Charlotte. The company also announced it hired Kerri Mast as a vice president and wealth planner in the Charlotte office. She will report to Sovine and be responsible for providing trust and estate planning services to BBH Wealth Management clients in the region.
These executive changes in Charlotte are not indicative that the company expects overwhelming growth in the region, Sovine said.
“Charlotte has been a productive office for us, but the growth opportunities in the Southeast are not different than anywhere else in the country,” he said. “The growth is robust in all of our offices. We have a real emphasis on retaining and attracting competent professionals.”
Sovine said the company’s plan for future growth is simple: Continue doing what has worked for the past 200 years.
“We have never made an acquisition and we don’t plan to,” he said. “We think that if we continue to do the right things for our clients we will generate growth.”
Sovine, a North Carolina certified public accountant, has worked as the regional head of Brown Brothers Harriman’s since 2002. Before that, he worked for Poyner & Spruill LLP, specializing in tax and estate planning and estate administration.
He said he was attracted to join Brown Brothers Harriman eight years ago because it “got it right” when it came to trust services.
“We are not interested in opening trust offices just to grow assets under management,” he said. “Principally, we are an investment management firm, but when we are dealing with significant family wealth, we need to have certain trust capabilities. … We want to be in the customized high-net-worth management businessa and to do that you need trust.”
In December, Brown Brothers Harriman established a Delaware trust company. Sovine said it can use this trust charter to offer trust services nationally.
“To attract trust business from around the country, Delaware is important,” he said. “That was a real hole in our offering and we have filled it. We aren’t really interested in opening more trust offices from here.”
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