Fidelity Investments had affluent clients in mind last week when it introduced a wide-ranging platform designed to help registered investment advisers (RIAs) better serve those clients with a bevy of new trust services to go along with separately managed accounts (SMAs) and other products tailored to the wealthy.

An expansion of the Boston fund giant's WealthAccess platform, the new program permits trustees to hire Fidelity Personal Trust Co. to act on their behalf administratively while allowing advisers to keep their roles as investment managers.

SMAs are just one of the investment vehicles that RIAs who use WealthAccess will be able to offer. Through Fidelity's Separate Account Network, 100 institutional money managers and more than 250 SMA options are available.

By combining the WealthAccess system with its trust company, Fidelity hopes to offer affluent customers a more integrated, less complex system of trustee and investment services.

"As the wealthy population continues to age and increasingly seeks help in developing estate and wealth-transfer strategies, advisers who offer a range of trustee services may be well positioned to strengthen existing client relationships and even extend them into future generations," said Jay Lanigan, president of Fidelity's Registered Investment Advisor Group.

The nation's No. 1 mutual fund company is using its new platform as an attempt to widen its appeal to both attract and attain higher-net-worth investors. Fidelity WealthAccess puts together the affluent clients and registered investment advisers from its own pool of professionals, the second-largest in terms of assets among custody and brokerage firms.

As of Nov. 30, 2003, the more than 2,000 Fidelity registered investment advisers possessed $94.7 billion in assets. Overall, Fidelity is the custodian of $1.7 trillion of assets.

The new WealthAccess also enhances advisers' accounting and reporting capabilities, including for income separation, tax-lot accounting and securities. Further, by providing an agent for trustee services, the trust company will assume fiduciary responsibility so that advisers can focus on managing clients' investments, Fidelity said in a statement.

The assumption of this and other administrative duties, including accounting to tax reporting, will "help improve operational efficiencies by consolidating family relationships," the company said.

In the SMA industry and investment management areas devoted to affluent investing, Fidelity's expansion of services marks the latest development in a follow-the-leader procession toward one-stop investing and service combinations designed to put all the tools in one box, Lanigan said.

"Fidelity Trustee Services lets advisers delegate the administrative aspects of a trust, allowing them to focus on what they do best: investment management and client service," he said.

Copyright 2004 Thomson Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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