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BNY Mellon makes rich investment in Tampa Bay area

Despite a bone-crunching recession and financial heartburn for the wealthy, somebody in Tampa's after their business, pitching pate de foie gras rather than a patty melt. They're showing off the original work of romantic artists with names like Turner, and they don't mean Tina. And they're offering up their two best marketing weapons — Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Mellon, each a former U.S. treasury secretary — even though both happen to be long dead.

Bank of New York was founded by Hamilton and is headquartered at One Wall Street. Mellon Bank, founded by the Mellon family, merged with it in 2007 to create BNY Mellon.

That potent combo from history helps when rich people, unnerved by the chaos among Wall Street money managers, hunt for stability.

A Tampa office of BNY Mellon, catering to those with a net worth of at least several million dollars (in case you're wondering, billionaires are also welcome), just opened at 4488 Boy Scout Blvd., within site of tony International Plaza.

A private bash for 200 was held Monday evening to celebrate the new office and show off some of the artwork — paintings by landscape masters William Turner and Thomas Gainsborough among them — on loan for the grand opening from Paul Mellon's personal collection.

BNY Mellon's presence in Tampa actually started with strategy sessions held in the dining room of Ray Ifert, a longtime trusts and estates banker in Florida who joined BNY Mellon early last year. He will run the Tampa operation as regional director.

Catering to wealthy clients requires financial skills, but the real talent is knowing the right people — especially such gatekeepers to the rich as lawyers and certified public accountants — and building credibility by word of mouth.

It's a given in such lofty climes that if a client's wayward child needs a talking-to about proper money stewardship, these bankers are on call.

Ifert, 48, says his bank's team of seven averages 23 years of experience. Ifert also chairs the overhaul of the Tampa Museum of Art, which, he says, should open anew in January.

"I think Tampa will continue to outpace other areas" in growth, Ifert says. Otherwise, he asks, why take on this role at BNY Mellon?

Ifert reports to Paul Dresselhaus, who is managing director of BNY Mellon's wealth management along Florida's Gulf Coast. He operates from Naples, and the opening of a Tampa office creates, in effect, bookends north and south from which to service clients all along the west coast. Other area offices should come in time. BNY Mellon already operates five offices along Florida's east coast dedicated to wealth management.

Readers with roots here may remember Dresselhaus is the same banker who arrived in downtown St. Petersburg in 1992 as head of this area's first Northern Trust branch catering to the wealthy.

In Tampa on Monday, Dresselhaus said the area is a gateway to Florida's entire Gulf Coast, thanks to the ease and access of nearby Tampa International Airport. As a reminder of the phrase "location, location, location," it's no fluke that BNY Mellon also chose to be a credit card's toss from International Plaza. It is a well-established mecca for the area affluent and, as Dresselhaus notes, within reasonable distance of Pinellas County's wealthy population, as well.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

BNY Mellon makes rich investment in Tampa Bay area 03/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 7:18am]

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