Bill Kerst, who leads Arkansas’ only stand-alone trust company, would love to discuss revenue, but nowadays he has more than just Community First Trust to consider.
Kerst is CEO and founder of the trust company, which has locations in Hot Springs, Hot Springs Village and Little Rock. But he also holds a new role leading the trust department of Farmers Bank & Trust of Magnolia.
“For 24 years we were not tied to a bank, but then we merged with Farmers about a year and a half ago,” Kerst said in an interview about a huge generational wealth transfer that’s surging as the baby boom generation ages into twilight.
“The bank had a trust department and we still had our trust company, and basically they’ve continued to operate as separate entities,” Kerst said. “We did merge operations in some places that overlapped, to achieve economies of scale.”
Kerst was uncomfortable sharing revenue figures without consulting Farmers Bank officials. “I can tell you this, we’ve had good solid years of growth for the last five years and longer. Even through COVID, we’ve had great growth here.”
His bottom-line advice for executives and business owners looking ahead to retirement is simple.
“I want everyone to stop and think, do I have my plan in place, and does it really fit with what I want for my business and my family? A large portion of our population doesn’t even have a plan in place.”
The inheriting generation also needs a plan, he said.
“When they get this wealth, they need advice they can trust. You have to be able to identify a good referral source. There’s a lot of information on the internet, but we all know that not all of it is good information. They need help from somebody that’s going to have their best interests at heart.”