MADISON, Wis. – When UW Credit Union sought out locally-based First Business Bank to offer trust and investment services to its mostly University of Wisconsin membership base, one prominent factor stood out: no competition overlap. UWCU recently partnered with First Business Trust & Investment Services, a division of First Business Bank that serves mostly business clients here, to offer a traditional listing ranging from retirement plans to trusts and estate planning. With $650 million in assets, UWCU is the second largest credit union in the state. Roughly 45,000 of its 90,000 members are technologically savvy as evident by their online accounts at the credit union. Adding a layer of investment offerings came about nearly 18 months ago when many started asking for such services, said Maggie Hertz, president/CEO of UWCU. "There's a common mission between us," Hertz said of the partnership. "They are a good fit because we don't compete for business and they understand our culture because a large percentage of their customers are non-profit organizations." Because Wisconsin law doesn't allow a trust service office to be established between a bank and a credit union, First Business had to arrange a separate lease agreement to operate an in-house office at one of UWCU's branches. The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institution approved the move and three First Business investment advisors will work at the branch Mondays through Fridays initially on a part-time basis. Hertz said the alliance may be the first of its kind in the state. First Business launched in 1990, and its investment division has $400 million in assets under administration serving clients in a number of areas including non-profit organizations. Its local appeal has garnered rave reviews with businesses that are leery of partnering with out-of-state companies. Indeed, First Business received a first place ranking in the banking category from InBusiness Magazine at its Executive Consumer Choice Awards ceremony in December 2002. Judges wrote First Business not only had the capability to use "their products and services to get people in the door, but their customer service practices are a vital part of generating repeat customer traffic." "Our full trust service offerings, and non-proprietary approach to investment management, were key requirements in the credit union's discussion with us," said Joan Burke, president of First Business Trust & Investment Services. Hertz said the credit union did due diligence in seeking out an institution to align with and when the decision came down to First Business and an out-of-state institution, UWCU's board elected to keep their ties local while saving operational expenses. "With the other firm, we would have had to hire someone to come in and all that's tied to that," Hertz said. The wrinkle is while First Business is the newest connection, UWCU has an established link with CUNA Mutual Group's MEMBERS Financial Services. Hertz said this gives members alternatives and credit union employees will "make sure that (respective) referrals go to the right place." Since a soft launch in May, First Business has received more than a dozen referrals. Credit union employees will be trained to make the proper referrals and a full marketing campaign through in-house signage, Web alerts and radio advertisements will kick off in July. Because there was "such a large demand" to offer investment services, Hertz said generally speaking, the credit union's "sophisticated membership often know what their needs are" and how to go about meeting them. For this reason, the investment advisors aren't targeting members with a certain asset demographic. "To help our members succeed by providing a full complement of trust and investment services to help them achieve their financial goals," Hertz said. "Few credit unions anywhere offer this level of trust and asset management capability." -

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