As assets held in trusts increase, independent financial planners, as well as trust departments at banks, have an opportunity to pick up business and increase their contacts with clients and potential clients, says a new study by Spectrem Group.

Personal trust assets held by U.S. banks increased significantly last year after a period of modest growth, partially due to bank acquisitions of brokerage firms. All of the top 10 banks in trust assets held had at least $35 billion in assets. A year ago, a bank could make the top 10 with $30 billion in trust assets. Trust assets as a whole grew to $1.149 trillion in 2007, up from $1.016 trillion the year before.

But the growth of trust providers other than banks also increased dramatically in recent years, including registered investment advisors and financial planning firms that manage trust accounts, making them prime targets for acquisition for banks looking to grow their trust departments, says Spectrem.

Investors see independent financial advisory firms as having talented advisors and staff, a plus for firms trying to increase trust or other business, according to Spectrem. Investors also see independent financial advisors as providers of trustworthy and objective advice, the survey adds.