Practice Innovation Submission to Practical Accountant Magazine
An accounting firm with formal trust services? It’s virtually unheard of in the profession. Yet when our clients began asking Plante & Moran partners to serve as trustees of their estates, it became apparent they had a need for this service. In keeping with our desire to serve our clients’ needs to the best of our ability, we formed Plante Moran Trust, a logical extension to the financial advisory, estate, succession, and tax planning work done by Plante Moran Financial Advisors. Clients get the peace of mind of knowing their assets are protected via a fully chartered Trust Bank; we get the pleasure of continuing to serve our clients’ needs to our fullest capacity. It’s the best of both worlds.
Client Needs Fuel New Services
As Plante & Moran has added to its client service offerings through the years, the primary driver for these new services has been client need, not an internal mandate to capitalize financially. Because our clients are primarily owner-managers of middle-market organizations, we have found that our partners understand that client’s situation better than anybody else. For example, this client base lead to the formation of Plante Moran Financial Advisors in 1977 because of their specific requests for financial planning and estate planning services.
So when our clients began to ask Partners of the firm to serve as trustees of their estate plans, we knew that we had to provide a solution that was professional and protected our client’s assets yet simultaneously managed the risks inherent in the trust business. We began to contemplate the formation of a trust bank, a logical extension of the financial advisory, estate and succession planning, and tax planning work done by Plante Moran Financial Advisors.
It’s uncommon for an accounting firm to offer formal trust services; in fact, we were unaware of any other firm that had done so. Certainly, some CPAs may serve as a client’s trustee, but only in an individual capacity and with little, if any, experience or resources. In keeping with our desire to serve clients’ needs in the most efficient and effective manner, we decided to move forward. We hired an experienced trust executive in mid-2001, and in February 2002, the banking authorities awarded the charter to launch Plante Moran Trust.
A Complete Range of Trust Bank Services
Plante Moran Trust serves as trustee of clients’ revocable or irrevocable trusts and provides them peace of mind and continuity of service regardless of the health or availability of a particular Plante & Moran staff member. In situations where we serve with investment responsibility, our affiliate, Plante Moran Financial Advisors, provides an investment approach is that’s independent, objective, and non-proprietary — a differentiator in our marketplace and superb for fiduciary situations.
A growing area of our business is to serve as trustee with an outside investment advisor. Clients who have a long-standing relationship with an investment advisor and who have a need for a corporate trustee have found that we can provide the ideal solution. We also provide family office services for clients, with full bill paying and other asset oversight and responsibility. Finally, we offer escrow services on the sale of businesses, full probate estate administration services, and can also serve as agent when a family member or other individual serves as trustee or personal representative but needs accounting, investment, and tax expertise.