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SANTA ANA, Calif. – Nearly a year and a half after moving its investments division in-house, Orange County’s Credit Union has gone where it couldn’t go before. The $800 million credit union launched Orange County’s Investment Services in November 2004, and officially rolled it out in January 2005. Assets under management went from $62 million in 2004, to $73.5 million in 2005. Members using the new program also jumped from 1,700 to 2,240. The division also hired two more representatives to keep up with the demand, said Gary Rebensdorf, vice president of investment services. “Giving reps the access to be able to introduce themselves to members at the branch has really increased penetration,” Rebensdorf said. Making the move in-house has also increased cross-selling opportunities, said Lynda Hill, senior vice president. In March alone, cross sales of other products and services generated $3.6 million. That same month, the credit union moved its mortgage division in-house, which has already led to more interaction between investment reps and mortgage staff, she added. “Now that investments are part and parcel with [the credit union], we’re one big team and that rolls down to the members,” Hill said. The in-house investment division offers the traditional fare including financial-planning services and products including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, fixed and variable annuities, long-term care insurance, term-life insurance, and universal life insurance. Investment services were previously offered through a third-party agreement through the CUNA Mutual Group’s MEMBERS Financial Services program. The credit union still maintains CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. as its broker-dealer. Rebensdorf said there were no real challenges in making the move in-house, but the transition has opened up a new world to representatives. Being able to meet members as soon as they walk in the branch rather than having a teller refer them has increased investment penetration by 32%, he said. “We have more than 78,000 members. One of the things most reps count on is being able to meet them at the branch,” Rebensdorf said. Working with other departments has really taken integration to another level. For instance, a rep recently working with escheat accounts, was able to create some certificate of deposit sales and introduced members to the debt claim department, Rebensdorf said. Investment reps and mortgage reps are able to collaborate on a number of levels to help members, he added. Competing with, but not necessarily going head-to-head with “well-known” brands like Charles Schwab is a consideration, but the in-house move has an advantage with current members. “People love their credit unions, they trust them,” Rebensdorf said. “Even reps that are new to the credit union, they hear it over and over from members.” Hill said while the credit union has made strong strides with its investment program, it continues to use every opportunity available to let members know what they have to offer including seminars on a number of timely subjects. Recent changes that went into effect with individual retirement accounts have led to impressive seminar turnouts. The credit union will also continue to work with Orange County employees who are nearing retirement. “Everyone’s bombarded with messages but when there’s a need for [investment services], they need it and will seek it out,” Hill said. Going forward, the investment division will continue to build on its ability to interact more with members and other credit union departments, Rebensdorf said. While there are no plans to roll out a full trust services program, the credit union is planning to partner with a local attorney who can assist members with wills and trusts. “This is a big thing for us in terms of pride,” Hill said. “Members are interested in who they’re meeting at the branch. The [move] has really benefited staff.” -

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