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SEATTLE – With any relationship, nurturing, trust and a commitment of time are essential to building a long-lasting connection. More than six months after BECU Trust Company opened its doors for business, the hope is those relationship-building traits will do more to woo those that may think estate planning is for the multi-millionaires and convince others that they really do have a need for wealth management. BECU Trust launched on April 1 and has since garnered 16 clients and $11 million in assets under administration, and while those numbers may be considered small by some standards, in the trust business, they’re on track to where the company wants to be, said Bonnie Pladson, president of BECU Trust. “The first couple of years are very difficult, the challenge is getting the word out,” said Pladson of the six to 18 months it typically takes to build a trust relationship. “The good news is we’re right on target with where we want to be.” BECU Trust is a subsidiary of Boeing Financial Services, the CUSO that serves Boeing Employees Credit Union, the largest in the state with more than 300,000 members worldwide and $3.7 billion in assets. The trust company, with its staff of five investment officers and a senior trust administrator, is set up to serve credit union members and non-members with a minimum of $350,000 in investable assets. More than a year ago, a survey was sent out to 14,000 credit union members – the top 5% of depositors – to assess their needs for estate planning services. Nearly 58% had some knowledge of estate planning and 41% had a general idea of what the services are used for, Pladson said. The goal now is to continue to build name recognition through a marketing campaign that will educate potential clients on why trust services are not reserved for the filthy rich. “The credit union has such a large member base that our goal is getting the message out to the right people and letting them know they may have a need here,” Pladson said. In addition to running advertisements in the local newspapers, BECU Magazine and the member newsletter, Pladson recently hosted a BECU’s Fall Forum. Nearly 60 attorneys, certified public accountants and other “high net worth” professionals were invited to the forum held at a local country club to hear Brian Belski, managing director and equity market strategist with US Bancorp Piper Jaffray speak on the market’s effect on the economy. BECU will also conduct a series of monthly seminars starting Oct. 9 that will address a number of topics from `what a trust company can do for you’ to the intricacies of estate planning. While the average client account is $625,000 in assets, Pladson said they recently accepted a small account of $200,000 because the client is a credit union member and a former client. Prior to being named president of BECU Trust, Pladson, an attorney, founded her own trust company and she has extensive contacts within the estate planning community. Regarding the exception to working with the client that had less than the $350,000 minimum investable assets, Pladson said BECU Trust “won’t typically take this type of client” but will make some considerations if the client is a BECU member. Pladson said because of industry accounting oversights enacted through the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, state regulators strongly recommended that BECU Trust form a board of directors. The five-member board consists of two estate-planning attorneys, a retired trust executive, a BECU Financial Services Board member and a member of BECU’s executive management team. The board reports directing to Washington’s Dept. of Financial Institution’s Division of Banks, which regulates more than 90 state-chartered commercial banks, stock savings banks, mutual savings banks, alien banks, savings and loan associations and independent trust companies. Pladson knows firsthand the challenges of building a clientele for trust services. She weighed in on the recently-launched, MEMBERS Trust Co., chartered to served members nationwide and whether its size will get in lost in the nurturing environment crucial to building long-term relationships. “The trust business demands such a human touch,” Pladson said. “For one individual at an office to meet everyone’s needs, that may be a bit of a challenge. That person won’t be the voice of authority because they will have to report back to a central office. We have all our sources on site and I think reinforcing that credit union philosophy of serving members with high touch is critical with the trust business.” -

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