Old National unveils next step in its wealth strategy

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Old National Bancorp is launching a wealth management segment for high-net-worth clients that consolidates several wealth advisory and investment management services under a new brand.

On Wednesday, the Evansville, Indiana-based company unveiled 1834, a boutique-style business that will offer wealth planning, estate planning and administration, investment management, private banking, trust and fiduciary services, institutional services and specialized services such as business succession planning and executive compensation planning.

Named for the year Old National was founded, 1834 will cater to clients whose assets total $5 million or more or whose net worth is approximately $10 million or more, said Chady AlAhmar, CEO of Old National Wealth Management.

Old National Bancorp, which is launching a wealth management segment for high net worth clients, currently has around $30 billion of assets under management.

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It will pair each client with a wealth advisor, who will consult with in-house professionals such as trust officers, financial planners, private bankers and portfolio managers to design a customized, integrated plan for each customer.

Old National has also created a registered investment advisor called 1834 Investment Advisors that will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of the company. The RIA, which will be overseen by Old National Chief Investment Officer Jim Steiner, will manage offerings such as retirement plans, corporate trust services, endowments for businesses and nonprofits.

The idea for 1834 is to “create the feel of a family office” within a regional bank as well as “the feel of a boutique RIA shop,” AlAhmar said.

“What we’re building here is very unique from the client perspective,” AlAhmar said in an interview. “They will get the breadth and depth of a bank and the agility of an RIA.”

The $46 billion-asset Old National is one of many U.S. banks investing in the highly competitive wealth management business as a way to deepen client relationships and increase fee revenue. The list of banks that have retooled or built wealth management operations to some degree in recent years includes Citigroup, Citizens Financial Group and Texas Capital Bancshares.

Old National has been revamping its wealth management business as part of a multiyear plan under CEO James Ryan to transform the company into a commercially oriented, relationship-centered regional bank.

The wealth initiative got a boost in mid-2021 when Old National hired Steiner and two other private bankers from Wells Fargo’s ultra-high-net-worth brand, Abbot Downing, and opened an office in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Steiner is based.

Last year’s merger with Chicago-based First Midwest Bancorp accelerated the revamp. The $2.5 billion all-stock deal included two RIA boutiques, one in Chicago and another in Milwaukee.

The merger, which was approved by regulators in January 2022, offered a chance to integrate “the very best of each legacy company’s wealth-related services,” Ryan said in a press release announcing the launch of 1834. “The result of that process was the formation of 1834 and, with it, comes a broader investment platform and a much deeper focus on wealth planning.”

So far, one of the two RIAs has been rebranded as 1834 Investment Advisors, Steiner said. 

Also last year, Old National rolled out a private wealth management division centered on retail customers and added a seven-person wealth management team in Nashville, Tennessee. In total, the company employs around 350 wealth management professionals and may add more teams or individuals in existing and target markets, AlAhmar said.

“Let’s say we find an RIA that already does business in Scottsdale and Florida,” AlAhmar said. “We would be opportunistic in looking at boutiques like that.”

Including brokerage and institutional business, the company’s current assets under management are around $30 billion, AlAhmar said.

It makes sense that Old National is expanding its wealth management business, said analyst Terry McEvoy of Stephens Research. For starters, it’s a larger company today thanks to the First Midwest merger, and clients expect more services, he said. Second, more services will attract new commercial clients and help the company hang onto existing ones, he said.

Third, a lot of Midwest companies have been selling themselves to private equity firms, and that’s generating a significant amount of capital for families and business owners, McEvoy said.

“There’s a level of trust with the banks that helped you grow, and you can move that relationship to the wealth management platform if you have the right people, processes and risk management,” McEvoy said. “And I think that’s what they’re trying to do.”