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MADISON, Wis. – What are the emerging trends among CUSOs and what solutions do CUSOs have to develop to maintain strong relationships with their members? Twenty CUNA Mutual CUStOm Program managers tackled these questions recently during a three-day conference. CUNA Mutual’s CUStOm Program is a financial management services program designed exclusively for CUSOs. CUStOm Program managers are employed by their CUSO and are registered with CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. (CBSI). They oversee all credit union investment products at their respective CUSOs. CUNA Mutual has relationships with 30 CUSOs through the CUSTOm Program. “The managers were anxious to identify opportunities that will allow them to strengthen their relationship with their members in a tough market environment,” said Steve Dowden, CUNA Mutual assistant vice president, CUSO sales. Dowden said one of the primary topics of the roundtable-style discussions was account aggregation as a tool CUSOs can offer as part of their broker-dealer solution. Dowden offered that the biggest challenge facing CUSOs is trying to get variable investment products such as these into the mainstream. “The biggest struggle for CUSOs will be to effectively integrate the CUSO with non-traditional products and services, and convert those products and services to core products of the CUSO,” he said. To accomplish this, CUSOs will have to develop a wider distribution model. To help them do this, CUSOs will license member service credit union employees to market variable products, Dowden said. “The credit union industry and CUSOs are just beginning to move in that direction. Since there is no internal credit union industry benchmarks, they will have to look at external models,” said Dowden. “There will undoubtedly be a lot of trial and error,” he added, “but credit unions and CUSOs are anxious to see how this will work in the industry.” Dowden opined that CUSOs will lead the effort with fixed annuity products and a limited number of mutual funds. After that, he said, “As credit unions feel more confident with having traditional credit union employees responsible for doing this, the product array will expand.” – [email protected]

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