Five Questions With: Joseph Confessore

Joseph Confessore is leading The Washington Trust Co.’s new Private Clients Group, designed to provide a spectrum of banking and investment services for business owners, executives and “high net worth” individuals and their families and organizations. He also will continue to serve as a team leader in the bank’s Commercial and Institutional Banking Group.

Since joining the Westerly-based bank in 2003, Confessore has been instrumental in middle-market commercial and institutional lending in southern New England. Prior to joining Washington Trust, he spent several years in regional and national financial institutions in roles supporting business owners and their companies from asset-based lending and private banking platforms.

Confessore has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s degree in business administration from Providence College. He continues to serve on the College of Business Advisory Council and as a trustee of the University of Rhode Island Foundation. He is also a board member of the Rhode Island Industrial Facilities Corp.

PBN: What will the new Private Clients Group be able to do for clients beyond what Washington Trust already does?

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CONFESSORE: Washington Trust has been delivering value to our client base in such a manner that every client is really considered to be a “private client” of the bank. Throughout the bank’s history, we have had firsthand experience helping our clients create and build value over time, many times leading to significant wealth.

Since the financial services used throughout a client’s life typically change as wealth builds, the Private Client Group, in concert with our wealth-management and commercial banking teams and business partners, will provide a holistic approach in meeting the long-term financial needs of existing and new high net worth clients.

At Washington Trust, our Private Clients Group will coordinate all the resources and expertise of a full-service local bank with a sound balance sheet, wealth-management and trust services, and a comprehensive array of financial services for the benefit of the client.

PBN: How many people are working in the new group and what are their roles?

CONFESSORE: The Private Clients Group has three key operatives, including me. We are pleased to have in this initial group Bob Mancini as a senior private client adviser and Nicole Oliveira as a private client sales associate.

Washington Trust is not the type of organization to flood the market with salespeople pushing product. As an organization, we are mindful of how we grow, making sure it is at a measured and effective pace, putting the client’s needs first. As such, Washington Trust’s Private Clients Group is not huge, but it is highly focused. The group’s strength is in its speed and responsiveness, because it will help link our clients with experienced and dedicated employees, experts and decision-makers throughout the organization.

PBN: Why should potential clients consider the new group?

CONFESSORE: Washington Trust is a 219-year-old Rhode Island-headquartered institution and the oldest community bank in the country – there are few other providers with a longer history. We offer sophisticated, comprehensive services and solutions, combined with the ability to make decisions locally and quickly. Clients should consider Washington Trust and its Private Clients Group as an alternative to larger wealth-management firms – we offer flexibility, local market knowledge, accessibility and consistency of service, and stability.

Smaller wealth-management firms may not have access to the breadth and depth of services that we offer. For instance, the ability to offer credit to a high net worth individual, their company, or their [nonprofit] organization is an invaluable resource, especially when borrowers have access to the decision-makers at the bank. The typical evolution after we help build value in an individual’s business is for them to consult with our in-house investment professionals and fiduciary officers about how best to preserve and transfer that wealth. That type of full service with access to local decision-makers isn’t easy to find in today’s financial services market.

Regardless of your needs, when it comes to your financial well-being, you want to be able to speak directly to your investment adviser, trust adviser, trust officer, or credit officer during all economic times. We provide that access to our clients.

PBN: What are the biggest challenges in today’s wealth-management industry?

CONFESSORE: One challenge in the industry is the discussion around the “robo-adviser” and the thought of commoditization, both of which are the result of changing technology. There is certainly a place for a more passive strategy in investing and for the availability of “self-service” options when it comes to advice. But it absolutely does not replace a more active strategy, which encompasses a holistic approach to managing wealth for an individual or their family. Particularly when their financial needs are more specific and complex. The planning process is a delicate and very personal process that requires the right team of professionals assisting the client to navigate through finance, trust and estate issues, and to go beyond the numbers to find out what the client’s goals are and what they really need.

There appear to be more headwinds for providers that are solely focused on managing assets or providing “one-size-fits-all” advice, without getting the full picture of what their clients are trying to achieve. Most clients are best served by an experienced team of professionals who will coordinate the multiple aspects of building and preserving wealth. Having the full suite of services and resident experts allows our Private Clients Group, wealth-management teams and the rest of the bank to help our clients navigate these challenges successfully.

PBN: How will your prior banking experience help in your new position?

CONFESSORE: I have spent most of my career in the commercial banking and private banking arena. The first sentence in my credit training manual, which stated that every loan needed to create value, has been a guide throughout my career. It gave me the belief that a loan must create value for both the bank and the borrower. It has served me well and always kept my focus aligned with the entrepreneur or organization that I was visiting.

Having lending experience across various industries has allowed me to help business owners build value in their precious but illiquid assets, e.g., their businesses. My new position at Washington Trust will allow me and the Private Clients Group to tailor wealth, credit and deposit services to help existing and future clients throughout all stages of their life. Tapping into my prior experience paired with the experience of the entire team will drive success, because no one person does it alone.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@PBN.com.