With members such as NASA scientists, Langley Federal Credit Union started looking at expanding its 16-year-old investment program in ways that would continue to meet the needs of its unique member base.
"The main thing is we wanted to get more into life insurance, financial planning and advisory services," said Victor Puliafico, president of Langley Financial Services LLC, the wholly owned CUSO of the $1.5 billion Langley FCU in Newport News, Va.
Previously partnered with a broker-dealer-"We went as far as we could with them"-Puliafico said Langley started looking at other potential partners in early 2010. Seven broker-dealers made the cut, including the incumbent, before Langley went with PrimeVest Financial Services Inc., a St. Cloud, Minn.-based firm that serves nearly 600 financial institutions including 22 credit unions.
Puliafico said it was PrimeVest's track record of working with financial institutions, its technology platform and its advisory services that sealed the deal. Having that range means being able to appeal to Langley's diverse membership, which includes everyone from NASA scientists to blue collar workers. Founded in 1936 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the common bond cooperative now serves more than 170,000 members.
Langley Financial now oversees assets in the $125 million to $250 million range with another $20 million in advisory assets, Puliafico said. In 2010, the CUSO experienced 50% growth in its investment program in part because of a staff referral program and more marketing. There has also been an increase in thrift savings and IRA rollovers.
"Many people were burned in 2008," Puliafico said when asked what were members' most pressing concerns in a turbulent economy. "They want to be able to have enough assets to retire. They want to minimize risk."
Member education seminars on topics such as retirement, social security and investing for women are conducted at least once a quarter. Branch signage had pictures of the investment representatives so that members could put a name with a face, Puliafico said. Employees who make the most referrals are honored each month in a write-up on the credit union's intranet that features their photo and how they were able to help members.
"The staff is the first line of communication to members. We've made an effort to make sure they are better educated to make referrals," Puliafico said.
Momentum is building to establish more relationships with credit unions, said Catherine Bonneau, president/CEO of PrimeVest. The firm signed three top-100 credit unions in the fourth quarter of 2010 and could potentially double its 22 client listing based on its current pipeline, she added.