MADISON, Wis. -- When a member at a credit union in the South recently came into a $10 million in heritance, he turned to his credit union, overwhelmed and unsure of what to do with the windfall.
While those types of large "transactions" are typically not the norm within the industry, throwing a bunch of products at the member is not the way Hendrix Niemann wants to see it transpire.
Niemann has joined CUNA Mutual Group in the newly-created position of wealth management specialist to lead the company's wealth management initiative within the representative services division of CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. A 25-year veteran in the financial services industry, Niemann will coach and train financial services representatives on big-picture wealth management issues facing credit union members. For the next year or so, he will focus on building and reinforcing a "client-centric" approach to financial planning.
"I think financial services in general tend to be by nature transactional as opposed to holistic or comprehensive and that's true at a bank, wirehouse and in this case, at a credit union," Niemann said.
That holistic approach will entail getting a big picture of a member's long-term goals and then after a complete analysis is done, recommend the appropriate solutions or products. For starters, there will be more financial plans for members, an area that could use some bolstering, said Niemann, who started at CUNA Mutual on Sept. 13.
"And by plans, I don't mean 200 pages that eventually end up sitting in the bottom of a desk," he said. "We need to do little road maps to guide the process on everything from how assets are titled to trust [services] issues to philanthropic issues that often don't get discussed until it's too late."
Another area Niemann is looking to beef up is expanding relationships with local accountants and attorneys, which he describes as "centers of influence." Different insurance solutions and trust services for a member or spouse that owns a small business will also be explored more to ensure smooth transitions upon retirement or death.
Niemann was very familiar with CUNA Mutual having heard of the company while the senior vice president and director of business development at Cannon Financial Institute, where he initiated and managed strategic alliances with financial services industry partners. CUNA Mutual's account was handled by a colleague of Niemann's at Cannon. He also has former ties to the American Bankers Association, where he served as director of sales, alliance and e-learning services for the trade group, managing the professional development group's outside sales force and inside sales support personnel.
"What I already knew about credit unions but have seen it reinforced is they enjoy a much greater loyalty than a typical bank or wirehouse," Niemann said. "We want to use that relationship in a good way. Members are likely to have more trust for their credit union if a financial advisor will sit down with them and say 'we want to talk with you about your plans.'"
To that end, Niemann is gearing up for a busy travel schedule over the next three to six months to meet with financial reps at credit unions. At press time, he was planning to visit credit unions in New England and Atlanta and had just arrived back from a session with 25 reps in Chicago. So far, the reception has been "very welcoming in having a resource to call on." Niemann said in many credit unions, there are typically only one or two reps handling investment-related and wealth management issues.
"In many cases, they're the lone rangers," Niemann said of the reps.
He has reassured advisors that they don't need to be experts in a certain area but they do need to know who to call on locally or at CUNA. That outreach, combined with implementing a holistic approach to planning, is apt to drive revenue for CUNA Mutual in managed accounts, financial plans and insurance, offerings that fall under areas Niemann will be responsible under CUNA Brokerage Services' umbrella.
"Every study I've seen from Spectrum to Cerrulli Associates shows baby boomers have not done a real good job in preparing for the impending retirement or saved enough," Niemann said. "We have a tremendous opportunity to fix that."