For example, some companies only offer an 800-number for you or your client to call if you have questions—meaning you and/or your client may get a different person each time. On the flip side, other providers have a more customized and tailored experience, even offering things like a full-time professional trust officer and/or trust investment officer who oversee investments, reporting and administrative services. Having a trust investment officer work with the client to choose investments in the trust can be vital to helping maximize wealth and assets and ensure effective distribution over generations. A-la-carte services offered outside of the “basic” package, such as trust tax return preparation and K-1 issuance, also present a value-add for clients.

This level of tailored service can free up an advisor’s time, so they can focus on other key areas of their business, like working with current clients and seeking out new ones, as well as improving rapport and offering more value and personalization.

Marketing support. This may seem like a minor detail in the grand scheme of things, but if an advisor is seeking the benefits of differentiation through offering trust services, marketing will likely play a key role in helping to get the word out and making your clients aware. Some companies offer marketing support as part of their trust services, which may be worthwhile to consider, especially if you don’t have the internal resources or bandwidth to market the services. Will the trust company go the extra mile to cohost events for centers of influence, clients and prospects? Meeting trust company representatives who aren’t local to you may appeal to your strategic business partners and clients. Evaluating the quality of marketing support and different types of marketing materials (videos, brochures, emails, etc.) offered can also be useful in assuring they align with your own brand, marketing strategy and client preferences.

Cost transparency. Just as cost transparency is an important consideration for many clients, it’s also important for advisors to ask their potential trust services provider about how they’re charged, and if there are any hidden fees for additional services. Some trust companies charge based on assets under management—the bigger the trust, the bigger the administration costs. Trust companies may also require a minimum for trust services, regardless of the trust size. It’s recommended to compare a few different providers to get a better sense of a reasonable benchmark for these services.

Competition. Advisors may want to be mindful of who is offering the trust services (for example, a bank, trust company, other provider, etc.), as banks may have a wealth management unit that can compete with the advisor for the client’s business. From an advisor standpoint, if you share a trust with a bank, the bank may drip marketing materials to your client or solicit your client’s business. When selecting a trust services provider, it’s worthwhile to consider whether or not that company will be competing with you for your client, or whether they’re an independent organization that’s not targeting end-client business.

Expertise. It’s important to evaluate a trust officer’s experience. Do they possess the experience and wisdom to make inferences about your trust case? Can the trust company provide guidance for a trust’s design and options? Can the trust company run illustrations, such as the potential tax savings and payout options for a charitable trust?

Although it can be an initial time investment to research and vet a potential strategic partner for trust services, it can be a worthwhile task, as the upside to offering trust services to clients can far outweigh the initial time commitment of finding the right strategic partner. With the right trust services strategic partner, you can free up time to focus on what matters most—your clients.

Dean Mioli is director of investment planning, Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI.

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