Emily Walker, vice president and trust officer with Commercial Bank & Trust Co., has worked in Trust for the past 16 years and feels blessed to have been a part of so many lives.
“Each family has slightly different needs, so each day is interesting,” she said. “So many families work hard, save hard, and want to take care of their loved ones after they are no longer able to do so personally. We act as the professional caretakers that help transition wealth and care for loved ones as far into the future as needed.”
Commercial Bank’s Trust division serves in court-appointed roles such as the executor of a will, the guardianship for a child, or the conservatorship of an adult, and it administers a variety of trusts including special needs, personal, asset protection, charitable and life insurance. Its comprehensive services include bill paying, household services and maintenance, planning and caring for special needs beneficiaries, and arranging sitter care or facility care as clients need help with daily activities.
“Everyone has different goals, and the beauty of a trust agreement is you can write it almost any way you can think it,” said Walker, who has managed the bank’s Trust department for the past nine years.
During the first several months of 2013 Walker and her team added numerous accounts and now work with nearly 200 families, managing $78 million in total Trust department assets.
Commercial Bank hopes to continue to grow its Trust department and is looking to get the word out that it wants to work with more local investment managers as part of its team-based approach.
“I think we have a unique approach when compared to some larger banks. We come in as a team player,” said Walker, who estimates Commercial Bank works with investment managers as much as 85 percent of the time in the Memphis market. “We actually look forward to working with investment managers who are already familiar with and managing assets for our customers.”
One new trend gaining traction in the past few years is the use of asset protection trusts, known as Tennessee Investment Services Trusts, which Tennessee began offering in 2007. The trusts allow an opportunity for high-net worth individuals to protect their assets from financially devastating situations such as a lawsuit, divorce and bankruptcy.
“More and more people are taking advantage of asset protection trusts, and I think we will see even more in the future since the states bordering Tennessee do not have the same laws,” Walker said.
The trusts allow Tennessee residents to keep their assets here and encourage residents of other states to bring their trust business to Tennessee.
“We obviously want people to do business here in Tennessee,” Walker said. “Now people are now able to protect their assets without having to send them to Delaware or offshore.”
Asset protection trusts can stay in place for up to 360 years, protecting family wealth for several generations.
“Although any individual may be exposed to liability or risk, there are of course those whose occupation exposes them to higher risks and liability such as contractors and doctors,” said Walker. “Under this law, assets are protected from creditors; however, income and principal can still be used. The investments can still be directed.”
Commercial Bank, which operates out of Paris, Tenn., has three branches in the Memphis area – Midtown, Downtown and East Memphis – where there are no teller stations, just desks where customers sit down one on one to make deposits and withdrawals.
“For people that visit us, I think they easily see how we offer something different,” Walker said.
The bank has grown its business by being people-oriented and relationship-based in helping families meet their financial needs.
“One of the advantages of being a community bank Trust department is that we know everyone’s name when they call, and I think the clients I work with enjoy that personal touch,” she said.