That meant doing more portfolio reviews instead of the traditional once-a-year assessment. Members looking for safety were steered in-house to certificates of deposit and other fixed-income products. Investment advisers made extra calls, and Redstone reached out even more with frequent mailings packed with timely topics.
"There is a tendency in this type of climate to hide from clients," said Russ Harton, senior assistant vice president of the investment and insurance division at Redstone in Huntsville, Ala. "We felt it was important to stay in close touch."
Having that connection was one of the considerations in naming Redstone among PrimeVest Financial Service's top 2008 performers. The St. Cloud, Minn.-based broker-dealer serves nearly 600 financial institutions in 50 states and Guam. However, the firm has only about a dozen credit unions among its clientele. Still, Redstone has ranked highest in performance for two consecutive years within the credit union category, according to PrimeVest. It shared the accolade with banks having assets ranging from under $250 million to more than $5 billion.
"Redstone has been tops. Russ has done a fantastic job of leading that program and embracing new ideas, like partnering junior producers with senior producers," said PrimeVest President/CEO Catherine Bonneau. "They do an amazing job holding on to excellent talent."
One of those veterans is Roger Christenson, investment executive, who is celebrating his 20th anniversary with Redstone. Bonneau said Christenson "continues to evolve and stay on top of his game but doesn't lose sight of the embedded trust" members have with the credit union.
In picking its top performers, PrimeVest looked at gross dealer concessions, which is the investment programs' production activity. The broker-dealer also looked at sales leadership, development of talent, use of marketing and product mix. Redstone had $2.2 million in gross dealer concessions in 2008, according to PrimeVest. The credit union's investment program has $200 million in assets under management and nine advisers.
Harton acknowledged that was the case with other financial institutions in 2008 and 2007, Redstone's investment program numbers were down during those periods because of the market's gyrations. A lot of the credit union's new business came from current clients, he added.
"People are paying attention to the media. They're still hearing the bad things, but we're starting to see some positive signs," Harton said pointing to the number of investors moving back into the stock market. "It's been tough for everyone. We've just made every effort to be proactive and stay in front of our clients."
A lack of confidence in all areas of the economy has been the most pressing concern expressed by Redstone's members, Harton said. And those worries are coming from all walks of life. Most of the investment program clients are middle-age while some are in their 30s. He noticed a notable shift from equities to income products as well as a boost in fixed-income products over the last 12 months. Still, advisers are cautiously coaxing members to get back into the stock market, especially those who have time on their side. Members with a shorter horizon are steered toward conservative products, Harton said. Whatever the decision, having the right advisers in place is critical.
"When you look at the top programs at broker-dealers, you'll notice that if you don't have good people, you're going to be hurting," Harton said. "If you don't have support from the top, you're not going to be successful."
PrimeVest is looking to expand its role in helping credit unions build their investment programs. The firm's roots are within the banking industry, and for years credit unions did not want to be served by a company that had banking clients, Bonneau said.
"That wall is not as hard and fast as it once was. There are some forward-looking credit unions that are embracing the holistic approach," Bonneau explained. "They are still a minority [at PrimeVest] but are growing in influence."
Founded in 1984 as Bankers Systems Brokerage Services, PrimeVest is a member of the ING Advisors Network, a subsidiary of ING, one of the world's largest integrated financial services organizations with more than $500 billion in assets.