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CEO says new funds can be started in minutes, not months, at a fraction of the cost of a mutual fund.
Earlier this month The Trust Advisor reported Westwood Holdings Group, Inc. (NYSE: WHG), through its trust company unit Westwood Trust, helped forge gains by landing large new accounts while other firms sat on the sidelines. Westwood managed to bring in $2 billion in new assets during the toughest year in recent financial memory.
As part two of our report on Westwood Trust, I had an opportunity to chat once again with Brian Casey, President and CEO of Westwood, to drill down into the topic of interest to most wealth advisors – common trust funds.
New Money from an Old Idea
Simply stated, common trust funds or “CTFs” permit the commingling or pooling of investors’ money into one account (known as a common fund) for the purpose of creating a single investment. In other words, they are much like a mutual fund. They actually pre-date mutual funds so they are an old concept. Since they are a bank product, CTFs are not required to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and they are not considered to be a security under state and federal securities laws. They are regulated under OCC Regulation 9 (12 CFR 9.18) and are supervised by state or federal bank regulators.
Casey says there are two types of CTFs. The first are common trust funds or CTFs, a product of a bank or trust company established as a convenience to the trust client. The second are collective investment funds or CIFs. These are utilized primarily by large qualified plan sponsors who are seeking institutional pricing for a large pool of retirement assets such as 401ks. They strike an NAV daily and trade on Fundserve. Casey adds, “We actually have one of these that we developed for a Fortune 100 company 401k plan and the data is available in Morningstar.”
But Westwood’s power products are the CTFs, common trust funds. They are private and only available to clients of Westwood Trust. Casey says that “they are only available to our clients who have a bona fide personal trust relationship with the trust company.” Their minimum account size is $2 million which can be either a taxable or retirement account. But, in other words, to benefit “you have to be a trust client and have seven figures with us to be part of the club.”
According to the Westwood’s 10K quarterly report for the year ending September 30, 2009, $1.4 billion of its $9.5 billion or 15% of its assets under management are held in common trust fund relationships.
Westwood runs 31 separate common trust funds which are based on 15 asset classes. Casey adds, “With institutional quality and thoughtful asset allocation, the client is given a better shot of achieving what it is that they’re trying to do than picking a mutual fund off a list.”
To the client, “expenses matter.” With a CTF the only charge is a management
State legislatures are still enacting trust law enhancements to provide greater protection for your client’s wealth.
As more wealthy families cross borders to protect assets, they choose to set up personal trusts in states other than their own to take advantage of favorable trust laws.
According to recent data, 72 percent of U.S. households with more than $1 million in investment assets use trusts as a key component to their estate planning.
The main reasons to cross borders are:
• Some states don’t tax assets held in a trust, while distributions might be taxable in your home state.
• Trust codes in some states seek to protect assets from lawsuits and creditors.
• Some states allow “dynasty trusts” which permit future generations to avoid estate taxes.
Over the last few years a growing number of states have revised their trust codes to add features that provide for creditor protection, low or no state income tax and ability to establish a dynasty trust which allows for assets to pass to heirs for generations to come.
Nevada recently revised its trust code to provide for directed trusts. Directed trust statutes provide for an ability for the trustee to appoint an investment advisor to manage assets within the trust. This provides for low trustee fees and minimal trustee liability and provides flexibility to the investment manager ultimately benefiting the client.
Steven J. Oshins, an estate planning attorney and author of serveral trust laws in Nevada says, “Nevada’s new directed trust statute is critical to high net worth investors. Nevada now offers everything Deleware offers and more because of the combination of its 365-year dynasty trust law, two-year statute of limitations on self settled asset protection trusts and no taxation.”
Alaska revised its trust code to make it more difficult for divorcing spouses to grab trust assets. State trust laws vary widely and clients should compare jurisdictions for features that best fits their needs. Some of the most important trust features include whether or not a state has income tax.
When setting up a trust arrangement having a trust in a state that has no income tax has a definite economic financial impact on your client’s family. Therefore, no state income tax is amongst the most important.
Dynasty trusts are important beginning next year when estate taxes resume at a 55 percent tax rate. The general rule is the longer the period of time that the trust can exist the better it is.
Other factors include the number of trust providers or independent trust companies in the state which is an indication of whether a trust center is beneficial to a client and the time zone from New York.
But going out of state for a trust may not always make financial sense, especially for smaller trust accounts. Since the most favorable jurisdictions might be in states where you don’t know an individual trustee, you might need to hire a corporate trustee, which can cost about between ½ of 1 % to 1% or less of trust assets per year, depending on the size of the trust.
Moving an existing trust may also involve additional fees and may require court approval, depending on how the trust was originally drafted and state law.
Why the comeback? A demand for lower expenses and more flexibility make qualified plans a major market
Collective investment funds, sometimes referred to as common trust funds, are not a new investment structure in the U.S. market. In fact, they have been available in the market for decades, to both defined-benefit and defined-contribution plans.
In the past, however, collective investment funds had also always been perceived as a bank product, and mutual fund companies were, for several decades, the growth leaders in the retirement plan arena. As 401(k) plans began to grow quickly in the 1980s, they found mutual funds an easy-to-use product, further slowing the development of collective investment funds.
Now, collective investment funds are making a very strong comeback for several reasons.
The primary factor in the last few years has been faster computers and better communication networks. These have allowed collective investment funds to be priced and traded on a daily basis.
Collective investment funds are remarkably similar to the mutual funds many of us are familiar with in the marketplace; they can invest in equities, fixed income, ETFs and even mutual funds.
Additionally, they can create custom asset allocation portfolios to meet the needs of a particular client. This feature has been extensively used by pension plans that desire the collective investment funds to be utilized as a life-cycle fund.
While many pension plan sponsors had shied away from including collective investment funds in their employees’ plans in the past, there are now more than 800 collective investment funds available, and that number keeps growing.
Many of the collective investment funds available today are near mirror images of mutual funds that asset managers already offer to pension plans.
In fact, some of the stable value funds already available are so identical to the mutual funds they mirror that many plan participants are unaware of the transition from mutual fund to collective investment trust.
There are a few key differences, however, which make them remarkably well suited for use within 401(k) retirement plans.
There are several factors which make CIFs different from mutual funds. Nearly all of them are helping drive more and more business toward the collective
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