With a team of 10 advisers helping to oversee a retail investment portfolio of $402 million, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union places high value on being able to respond to members quickly, seamlessly and efficiently.
Those standards are among the reasons the $9.4 billion SchoolsFirst in Santa Ana, Calif., is looking forward to reaping the benefits of CUNA Mutual Group’s multi-year, multi-million dollar investment in its broker-dealer, CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. to help credit unions better address a growing need to serve members’ investment goals.
More than $15 million has been committed to CBSI for state-of-the art technology, staffing, training and other resources for members’ pre-retirement and retirement needs, CUNA Mutual recently announced.
“For us, essentially, what we’ve seen over the last two years is added support in terms of more resources from technology improvement to being able to get immediate assistance from the CBSI’s home office in Waverly, Iowa,” said Carol Silva, vice president of investment and retirement planning for SchoolsFirst.
CBSI said it has more than 250 credit union programs, 400 advisers, with more than $2.3 billion in mutual fund, annuity and managed account sales, and more than $136 million in annual revenue. In 2012, the affiliate of CUNA Mutual said it will pay credit unions more than $60 million in fee revenue.
A significant investment CBSI has already made is with Pershing, the company’s clearing broker-dealer, according to CUNA Mutual. The resulting brokerage platform is providing benefits to advisers and members, including seamless, online brokerage account transactions, e-signature capabilities and mobile technology.
Investor Connection is CBSI’s newest member/investor-facing technology that serves as an investment relationship portal from the credit union’s website, CUNA Mutual said. Its goal is to showcase the credit union’s financial adviser and gives members access to their brokerage relationship online. The site also allows access to account and investment information, research tools, calculators and financial articles.
Another technology enhancement CBSI is implementing is MEMBERS Inscope, which is a tool that helps credit unions identify high-value members based on specific, investment-centered profiles.
“Credit unions have told us one of their top needs is noninterest income, especially during these times of tight margins,” said Bob Trunzo, president of CUNA Mutual Insurance and Financial. “Our $15 million investment in CBSI is one of the ways we are addressing those needs. This investment will better position CBSI to help credit unions meet the investment needs of members, while at the same time deepening relationships with members.”
Silva at SchoolsFirst said the credit union has been with CBSI since 2007. Internally, the cooperative wanted to grow its investment program but didn’t think it could do so with its vendor prior to then. Like some in the industry, SchoolsFirst continues to chip away at a common perception and is optimistic that CBSI’s improvements will make a significant dent.
“Credit unions are not top of mind when it comes to investments. They tend to think of us for more traditional products,” Silva said. “We’re adding 40,000 to 50,000 members so it’s definitely a challenge when it comes to the awareness component.”
Suneast Federal Credit Union knew that with the rapid changes in technology, the $457 million cooperative in Aston, Pa., could never keep up with them on its own, said Jon Barrett, vice president of market development and programs. Having the expertise and the wherewithal to deliver is what put CBSI ahead of other competitors.
“It was important to us to have a connection with a credit union-linked company because the movement is important to us,” Barrett said. “It’s a pretty competitive world out there with a lot of choices. We want a partner that’s going to be with us down the road.”
Suneast’s investment portfolio is creeping up towards $95 million, Barrett said. Members who use the credit union’s service run the gamut from the young and old to retirees. The mantra has always been it’s never too early to have a conversation about retirement planning or saving for college.
“CBSI promised they would give us the tools we need to grow our business and they delivered MEMBERS Inscope,” Barrett said. “We’re discovering new ways to use the information all the time. It’s exactly what we needed.”
Training is another investment focus of CBSI, according to Jim Metz, president/CEO of CBSI.
In addition to its ongoing training, the company added the Honors Academy in 2011 through Cannon Financial Institute. It’s a year-long program of face-to-face, remote and self-study training that helps advisers take their business to the next level.
The first Honors Academy graduates have achieved a year-over-year average increase in revenue production of nearly 39% at their credit unions, Metz said. Two of SchoolsFirst’s advisers have gone through the academy, Silva pointed out.
New programs to train registered member services representatives, investment program coordinators and sales assistants are also being developed, Metz said.
Mike Bunge recently rejoined CUNA Mutual in the new position of CBSI business development director. He led business and community development efforts at the $1.8 billion led Summit Credit Union in Madison, Wis., the company said.
“I’ve been in both chairs and understand the challenges credit unions face in growing noninterest income. I’m excited about CBSI’s commitment to partnering with credit unions. There’s great potential for credit unions in member investments,” Bunge said.
Barrett said in addition to having a committed partnership, Suneast has the advantage of a board that recognizes the importance of integrating an investment program.
“Culturally, everyone gets it. Many of the board members are clients and that helps,” Barrett said. “We’re here for the long term and we see investments as a completion of the circle.”