Like some financial advisers after the 2009 merger of brokerage giants Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney, Michael Salardino said he had grown frustrated with the changes the trillion-dollar consolidation brought on.
So much so that he was more open to other opportunities to work elsewhere but acknowledged he wasn’t actively looking at the time.
“Since the merger, it seemed like everyone in the office was unhappy,” Salardino recalled.
When a former junior partner colleague and one of Salardino’s best friends was hired in April 2010 at the $6.5 billion Security Service Federal Credit Union based in San Antonio, he wished her well and continued on at the newly formed Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, which now had a combined $1.7 trillion in assets under management and more than 20,000 financial advisers.
“Things just got steadily worse after the merger. They kept raising fees and adding fees. In the meantime, my former partner was really happy at the credit union.”
Having worked there for 11 years, Salardino said he was pretty entrenched at MSSB when his former partner threw out the idea of him coming to work at a Security Service branch in Pueblo, Colo. The credit union has 69 branches in Texas, Colorado and Utah. That was in late summer of 2010 but it took him more than a year to finally make the move. Salardino was hired in August.
“It was a nonconventional move. For me, I needed to take some time to think about moving,” he said. “But I have no regrets, no doubts. I’m very happy.”
Salardino is a senior financial consultant with Security Service Investment Group, where he is a financial adviser through PrimeVest Financial Services Inc., a St. Cloud, Minn.-based firm that serves nearly 600 financial institutions and approximately 25 credit unions.
Since coming aboard, his main priority has been transitioning clients that followed him MSSB to Security Service. Salardino said he was concerned that he would lose many of those relationships he had built at the brokerage. However, 80% of them came over. With the recent upheavals in the market, a bulk of his time has been spent counseling nervous investors.
“It’s been very intense with the roller coaster markets. I try to be very proactive,” he said.
Salardino gives high praise to his colleagues, Jenelle Chorak, senior financial consultant, and Maria Hughes, sales assistant, for helping him make the transition to Security Service.
“We are a team and the team is the main reason I made the change,” he offered.
One of the major differences Salardino said he’s noticed between his wirehouse days and Security Service is the “amazingly low or nonexistent fees.” At most wirehouses, fees are generally only waived for those clients with $1 million or more in assets, he pointed out.
Salardino said of his current clients, roughly five or six are in the million-dollar threshold. At MSSB, “the rest would get pounded with fees.”
Another difference is the flexibility he has through PrimeVest, Salardino said. Chorak raved about the company’s offerings prior to his arrival. While he has yet to use the firm’s financial planning platform as he is still in the midst of transitioning clients, he learned through his colleague, that it was better and less cumbersome than others. The investment and insurance product offerings were also are more extensive than those at the wirehouse, said Salardino, who is also a Certified Financial Planner.
“The financial planning platform is very user friendly and it does everything I need it to do,” he said. “I was thinking it was going to take some time for me find a platform on my own. PrimeVest had what I needed.”
In addition to stronger mutual fund analyzing tools, Salardino said products such as long-term care insurance are available through Security Service, something he had never seen at MSSB.
A longtime Pueblo native, Salardino was impressed at how steep Security Service’s outreach was within the community. He said he is an active member of several commissions including one that partners with a town in Italy, a local college and a public child advocacy group that works to prevent child abuse.
Looking ahead, Salardino and his colleagues plan to prospect for new clients. Chorak is already handling referrals coming from within the credit union.
For 24 years, Salardino spent most of his career in investment services, starting at a regional firm, which later became a part of Wells Fargo through a series of mergers and acquisitions. He worked at another firm that later became a wirehouse and then another entity that couldn’t get a foothold in the Pueblo market. Still, he was very familiar with credit unions. His first account was at a Catholic credit union and later, a car loan.
“To some of my peers, this was an off-the-wall move,” Salardino said of SSFCU. “I’ve never looked back.”