MADISON, Wis. – With a member base consisting of college students with little to no assets to highly successful older faculty and other professionals, UW Credit Union probably had its work cut off for it when it decided to offer trust services to such diverse economic groups. In early July, the credit union reached the first anniversary milestone of its alliance with First Business Trust & Investment Services (FBTIS), which manages more than $100 million in assets and a division of Madison, Wis.-based First Business Bank. That inaugural year came with some misses but mostly targeted hits. “The number of members being served through our partnership with FBTIS reinforces our original decision over a year ago, that within the unique demographics of our membership some need for this service exists,” said Paul Kundert, president/CEO of $700 million UW CU. “After one year’s experience we conclude, our approach was sized correctly.” While the credit union “doesn’t make it a practice of disclosing detailed performance numbers,” said Mary Hanneman, UW CU director of marketing, taking on this undertaking meant understanding that “it would take some time to build the trust assets under management.” “Probably the most difficult issue we have faced over the first year is simply building awareness among our membership that we offer trust services,” Hanneman said. “Even more difficult is explaining what trust services can do to help a member and their family.” Despite these obstacles, the credit union has established between 30 and 40 “future business” relationships with members, said Joan Burke, president/CEO of FBTIS. Not bad considering the snail’s pace that typically comes with building long-term relationships and being profitable with the trust services arena. “We found that members were starving for information, there was pent up demand,” Burke said. “They wanted to know how trusts work, how wills work, dozens and dozens sought out one-on-one counseling.” UW CU’s membership extends to the University of Wisconsin and Edgewood College faculty, staff, students, alumni and their immediate families, people who have worked for Covance Clinical Research Units here, and members of the community that live or work within five miles of one of its 10 branches, making it the second largest credit union in the state. Responding to the trust needs of such varied groups came through various educational avenues including seminars, newsletters and real case studies where the actual names were changed, resulting in more than 30 members who have named UW CU as their trustees through FBTIS. Seminars on wealth preservation, charitable giving and investment management are scheduled for the rest of this year. Still, by far the most difficult hurdle has been not taking in “current business” such as charitable trusts and irrevocable trusts, Burke said. Indeed, Hanneman agreed that there is still a need to build awareness of trust services in order to find members who have current needs even as the trustee relationships are poised to become “our future book of trust business.” They’ve seen them all since last summer: from the young couples with children to people in their income-earning years, those with relatives who are disabled or have special needs to older members not wanting to self-direct their estate plans anymore. Burke said UW CU is its first and only credit union client and the alliance has proved to be an ideal match given their close ties to the community, their literal five-minute proximity from each other and their non-competing client bases. The door is open to serve more credit unions but like a potential spouse, the relationship will have to be amicable for both parties, she added. “You have to go into this with a commitment for the long term,” Burke said. “All of the members that have named us as trustees – not all will come to fruition. Those that do will provide a long-term relationship with the credit union.” To that end, Burke commends UW CU for have the courage and planning to introduce the services to its members and “sticking with it” for the long haul. [email protected]

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