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A Conversation With … Laura Kiesel

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Your addition to Missouri Trust at the end of 2018 rounds out the company’s leadership team. What expertise do you bring?
I bring in more of the trust administration side. I worked at previous trust companies – one was independent, [Springfield Trust Co.], and one was a bank, [Commerce Trust Co.] Before that, I was a director of administration for a hotel management company, [Elliott Lodging].

What’s your role in leadership at Missouri Trust?
We mainly do investment management and IRA accounts. We’re going to try and build now on the trust accounts that would have beneficiaries. My role is to administer those. I’m also the relationship manager on all the other accounts. We reach out to (clients and) make sure they’re doing okay. The market’s been down, so you get a little nervous, and we try to be proactive on that. It really depends on the client’s needs. Maybe it’s helping buy a car or a house or maybe they’re moving into assisted living. You get really personal. The more we know, the more we can help them.

You reported at the end of 2017 having $55.4 million in assets with 120 accounts. How did you finish 2018 and what are your goals this year?
We had a really good first year and a half. We had 193 accounts with an average size of $514,863 and $99.4 million in assets under management for 2018. Our goal is to set us aside from the banks, because we’re the only local trust company in the area. We’re just trying to make a new footprint out there and think outside the box. It’s not just investment management, it is about building the relationship and really, for me, it’s about becoming a part of their family.

We’re in the midst of what’s been deemed the largest transfer of wealth in history. Through 2023, Greene County baby boomers will transfer $6.65 billion. How is that shaping the trust industry locally and with your clients?
You don’t only get to know your clients, you try to get to know the family. So, you’re keeping that wealth in-house because you’ve made that bond. We all know (family members) don’t live in the same place anymore, but we can service clients anywhere. It doesn’t have to be local. 

How have consumers shifted what they need from trust administration?
Beneficiaries might be less capable of handling money for a number of reasons. The purpose of a trust [in estate planning] has probably changed, so I think that’s probably why our clients have changed. It used to be where your [estate] taxes affected your wealth at a lot smaller amount than they do now. When I started, it was $1 million and now it’s $11 million before estate tax is even in the picture. What trusts can do, though, is protect someone from themselves and/or creditors. Protection is a big deal in today’s world. And then you have social and behavioral challenges that create issues with beneficiaries.

You mentioned the changes to the estate tax. How are you helping clients take full advantage?
When (the exemption) is $11 million and then times two if you have a spouse, I don’t think they even think about it anymore because there’s not very many people in that category. Everyone knows in six years it could go back to where it was, which was $5 million or it could go back to $1.5 million. With the new tax law for ’18, we’re seeing how that’s going to affect deductions, or the lack of.

Laura Kiesel can be reached at lkiesel@missouritrustcompany.com.

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