The trust industry is booming in America, where more international billionaires are sheltering their assets. The legal structure is complicated, and trusts are often subject to strict secrecy rules. These factors make them difficult to understand, even for experienced lawmakers. Yet the trust industry is growing in popularity and has found footholds in many states.
In the 1990s, many trustees became dependent on advanced computer systems. These systems helped to eliminate errors and improve reporting operations. They also helped them keep inventories of account assets, calculate dividend payments, print checks, and handle tax accounting. In addition to increasing the efficiency of the trust department, they were able to offer a wider range of services.
The trust industry is dominated by small firms. In the United States, 94 percent of nonbank trust companies employ fewer than 20 employees. Only five companies have more than 250 employees. In 1992, the largest trust company was the Continental Auxiliary Company of San Francisco, which had fewer than 100 employees and more than $90 million in assets.
Trust companies also perform other financial services, including estate settlement and asset management. They can also act as successor trustees to living trusts.