Steve Dowden, president/CEO of CUNA Brokerage Services Inc., will leave the company Nov. 1 to start the next day as president/CEO of broker-dealer INVEST Financial, the firm announced Oct. 13. Dowden succeeds Lynn Niedermeier, who retired in July after serving as president/CEO since 2001.
INVEST, a subsidiary of the National Planning Holdings Inc. independent broker-dealer network, counts 13 credit unions among its more than 120 clients. Over the summer, it signed three new contracts with credit unions in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. National Planning Holdings is an affiliate of Jackson National Life Insurance Co.
"I've had a number of relationships that have helped me to understand the credit union space, Dowden said. "A lot of the needs that credit unions have are similar to what the independent channel and banks have. We think we have a foundation to deliver those."
Dowden left his mark at CUNA Brokerage. In addition to heading the top spot, Dowden served as senior vice president of distribution at the Madison, Wis.-based company. The 25-year financial industry veteran led a sales force of 550 advisers and was responsible for all sales within CUNA Brokerage's asset accumulation division, according to INVEST. Dowden also developed and implemented the company's MEMBERS Financial Services and wealth management platform during his eight years with the firm, INVEST said.
"Steve will be missed as a leader and colleague to many at CUNA Mutual and CBSI," said Jim Metz, asset management, chief operating officer at CUNA Mutual. "We wish him well in his new and challenging endeavor at INVEST."
For the first 90 days in his new role, Dowden said he will do a lot of listening and meeting with staff and clients to get a strong grasp of what moves value and growth and learning the core processor systems. While INVEST will continue to nurture its independent channel and bank clients, Dowden said credit unions are in a unique position to build trusted investment advisory relationships with their members.
"There is an inherited trust and credit unions and CUSOs can leverage that relationship," Dowden said. "Anybody in the industry knows you can't escape the current market dislocation. However, the industry needs us now more than ever."
This is especially true with retirement planning as 401(k) plans bob along in choppy stock market waters. That means if it's not already occurring, advisers need extra tools to get members close to their retirement ready for that phase of their lives, Dowden pointed out. Coupled with the right products and services and premium member and customer service, credit unions can be a beacon.
"There's a loss of confidence in Wall Street. We knew our job is to make life easier. Our goal going forward is to provide trusted advisers that people can rely on."
As for relocating from Wisconsin, known for its brutal winters, to Florida, Dowden said "living in a warm and sunny state is just an added benefit."