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Regions putting brokerage emphasis on branch-based investment services

In slightly more than six months, Regions Bank has hired over 100 financial advisors in a strategy the Birmingham bank company and Mississippi market leader says will personalize investment brokerage services at its 1,200 branches branches throughout its 16-state market.

The goal is to have 125 financial advisors on board by year’s end and strengthen the advisory force to up to 170 by the close of 2014, said Jim Nonnengard, head of Regions Investment Services, one of four divisions that make Region’s Wealth Management Group.

Nonnengard, in an interview with bankinvestmentconsultant.com, said the rapid roll out of the branch-based investment services strategy has been helped along by Region’s partnership with Cetera Financial Institutions (formerly PrimeVest Financial Services), a self-clearing, registered broker-dealer an RIA firm that provides customized investment and insurance services to 500 financial institutions.

handshake.87122244_stdRegions’ arrangement with the $24-billion Cetera provides the bank’s customers with a range of financial advisory services that include managed accounts, mutual funds, annuities, insurance, financial and retirement planning tools.,

Region’s former investment services arm, Morgan Keegan, a brokerage Regions sold off in 2011, had its advisors working mostly in locations separate from Regions. Morgan Keegan, which ran afoul of securities laws in Mississippi and elsewhere in the South before Regions severed its relationship with the Memphis-based brokerage, served high net-work individuals.

The branch-based approach targets all income levels, though marketing of the services will be geared to “mass affluent” customers, a demographic that takes in investors who have deposits with Regions of between $100,000 and $500,000, said Andy Ripley, a regional sales director who directs financial services operations in Mississippi and several other states from his Mobile headquarters.

Ripley said every branch in Mississippi and in Regions’ other markets will be linked to a financial advisors. So far, the Mississippi market has seven or so licensed advisers and more will be hired in the weeks ahead, Ripley said. “We should double the number we have now from seven to 14 and possibly 20 to make sure we have the coverage we need in the branches.”

Bankinvestmentconsultant.com reported that recruitment of advisers by the $121 billion Regions has been helped by the generous size of the territories and, thus, wide deposit bases the advisers will be working with.

The Mississippi advisors and ones staffing branches in other states won’t be isolated in a corner office. The idea is to integrate them into Regions’ consumer banking operations; for instance, directing investors who need business loans, mortgages or other services to the right person, Ripley said.

To that end, staffers from the consumer services side of bank operations have been involved in interviewing candidates for investment advisory positions, he said.

“We want to make sure they can work with us… and pass customers on to other experts in the bank to meet their other needs.”

That integration with the retail banking operation has been a recruitment draw, Nonnengard, the Regions Investment Services chief, said in the bankinvestment,com interview. “What tipped the scale for them [advisors] is the integration and partnership we have with the consumer bank,” Nonnengard told the banking website. “The consumer banker looks at the financial advisor as someone who can help retain customers and someone who can help them grow the customer base and cross-sell within Regions.”

Addressing analysts for Regions’ second quarter earnings report, chairman and CEO Grayson Hall said the 100 or so financial consultants already in the branches have accounted for about twice the amount of business initially forecast.



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