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Idaho Trust offers service to all customers

Wed., Oct. 31, 2007

When she needs her newspaper stopped, or even someone to intercept a manuscript shipped to her house while she’s traveling, author Ann Louise Gittleman contacts her bank.

Not the institution you typically turn to for concierge service. But having a concierge at her disposal is one of the perks of banking at Idaho Trust National Bank.

“I don’t like anybody to go out of their way for me,” said Gittleman, a nutrition writer best known for the “Fat Flush Diet.” But the Post Falls resident said the bank’s Coeur d’Alene staff often pre-empts her, offering to do errands when they learn that she’ll be out of town. Gittleman said she’s a fan of the “personal care.”

Idaho Trust began offering free concierge service 2 1/2 years ago. It was a natural step for the Boise-based bank, which was started as a trust company in 1994, said Desirée Prohaska, the bank’s senior trust officer and vice president. In the trust field, many of the firm’s clients are busy business owners who don’t always have time to pick out birthday cards, order flowers or make dinner reservations. Others are elderly and appreciate the help with personal errands.

“The clients we deal with are at a point in their lives where they need simplification,” Prohaska said. “Our clients are someone who wants to deal with a private business bank. They don’t want to deal with a large institution.”

Idaho Trust became a nationally chartered bank in 2000. Last year, the bank received its state charter, and it now offers checking accounts and commercial loans to the general public.

Through the change, Idaho Trust opted to keep the free concierge service. It helps build client loyalty, Prohaska said.

Clients who use the bank’s trust services or investment management pay a fee based on a minimum of $250,000 in assets. However, even a client with $500 or less in a checking account can use the concierge service, Prohaska said.

The requests range from the typical to the downright odd. Donna Abbott, the bank’s concierge in Coeur d’Alene, has bought concert tickets, researched ski vacations and even shipped new luggage to a customer on vacation in Zimbabwe.

“The client’s luggage was stepped on by an elephant. … We never learned how it ended up under an elephant’s foot,” she said.

John Hall, spokesman for the American Bankers Association in Washington, D.C., said it’s not unusual for banks to offer concierge service to their high net-worth customers. “They bring a lot of business to the bank.”

Wealthy individuals often need tax advice, insurance and help managing their portfolios, which makes them lucrative customers, Hall said.

However, “it’s somewhat unusual for a bank to offer concierge service to their entire customer base,” he said. “It would set them apart in the marketplace.”

Idaho Trust employs about 50 people. It has a Boise office, with plans for two others in Ada County. The bank’s Coeur d’Alene branch will eventually move out of its third-floor office in The Spokesman-Review building, relocating to a more visible site with space for a drive-up window, Prohaska said.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Idaho Trust National Bank has the smallest market share among the 15 banks operating branches in Kootenai County. Idaho Trust opened its Coeur d’Alene branch in February. On June 30, it had $2.9 million in bank deposits, or 0.17 percent of the market share in the county, according to the FDIC data.

Statewide, Idaho Trust National Bank has more than $30 million in deposits, according to the FDIC. According to Prohaska, the bank’s parent company, Idaho Trust Bancorp, is one of the largest providers of trust and investment services among Idaho-based banks, with more than $76 million in assets.

Continuing personalized service is part of the firm’s growth strategy, she said.

“We try to know everything about the client,” she said.


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