Most of the old trust companies which originally carried on a life insurance and annuity business have surrendered that activity to the life insurance companies. So, too, the fidelity insurance business is now largely in the hands of bond or surety companies who devote themselves to this business alone, though trust companies sometimes combine this with other trust functions. The fidelity insurance company becomes surety for or guarantees the honesty and fidelity of persons in positions of trust and responsibility. Formerly bonds for this purpose were signed by personal friends, but the practice is growing of having such bonds executed by the fidelity companies. They charge an annual premium for the service and assume the risk as a business proposition on the same general principles as any other form of insurance.
Many trust companies now maintain a title insurance department whose function is to examine and guarantee or insure titles to real estate. In a title insurance policy the company agrees to defend all litigation against the title insured, and if the title should prove faulty to reimburse the insured for the full amount of the loss up to the sum named in the policy. This service requires a highly specialized and elaborate equipment, which the smaller trust companies cannot usually afford.
In most of the larger cities, trust companies conduct a safe deposit department as an adjunct to their business. They construct larger vaults than their own business requires and rent safe deposit boxes to their customers for the safekeeping of securities, private papers, jewelry and other valuables. Usually access to the individual boxes can be had only by the renter or his agent in company with the attendant. The trust company retains one key to each box and the renter has a duplicate. Banks and trust companies find the safe deposit business increasingly profitable, as a larger number of people feel the need of such accommodations and prefer to have them convenient to the place where they do their regular banking.