Developing a Successful Investment Program: Branch, Book and Marketing

A step-by-step process that will help any investment program — both start up and existing — achieve its growth goals.

 

By CUSO Financial Services, L.P.

 

Once a credit union has completed the transition of its financial services investment program to a new broker-dealer, the most important goal for most programs is to grow the revenue. There are several steps to take to ensure the successful implementation of an investment program and the success of the financial advisors hired to provide guidance and customer service to clients. CFS provides a step-by-step process that will help any program — both start up and existing — achieve its growth goals.

Establish Personal Outreach, Strong Communications With Program Managers

Most financial advisors in a financial institution work in either dual-employee, managed, or hybrid-managed programs. In a dual program, there is typically a dedicated program manager, usually employed by the financial institution. In managed or hybrid programs, the program manager is usually employed by the broker dealer and may have several programs to manage. There typically is also a regional program development manager who oversees the program managers at multiple programs.

It is important for advisors and credit union management to establish good communication channels and rapport with regional program development managers early in the process; they can be some of the strongest supporters. Both program managers and regional program development managers have the same goal — to remove any hurdles, help with integration, and provide marketing support and access to additional resources needed to enhance the program’s success.

They also clearly understand the chain of command and organizational structure of the credit union in which the advisors are working so they can help streamline communications. Additional resources and specialists in the broker-dealer back office can help with specific needs such as small business investment planning, insurance, and trading — and program managers are often the conduit to these resources.

Take Advantage Of Program Marketing Support

Program marketing support should be available from the broker-dealer to help programs plan and build an annual marketing calendar and seasonal and/or life stage investment program strategies. Tactics offered may include branch referral training, client-facing workshops, marketing promotions, advertising concepts, and public relations efforts.

CFS offers this type of support through its Program Development Center, an easy-access online portal that provides streamlined shortcuts to building successful marketing programs, tips, and examples of successful campaigns that have worked for other non-competing financial institutions.

Conduct Personalized Program Assessments

After a minimum of six months of activity, and typically more likely done at one year, a production study becomes a beneficial exercise. In a production study, the broker-dealer takes a three-tiered approach — a detailed assessment of “branch, book, and marketing” to engage executive management, program managers, and advisors in the same quest.

Production studies from CFS go beyond the typical age-based and assets-under-management breakdown of the business. A regional program development manager works closely with the program manager to look at a wide range of productivity metrics in order to better understand the “state of the business” — what’s working and what isn’t. We:

  • Provide you with specific analytics, monthly benchmark data, and direction needed to increase annual business by at least 25% in a year
  • Show how to engage all levels of financial institution staff in discussions to improve awareness, credibility, and integration.
  • Clearly define which marketing efforts are having the best effect
  • Help advisors improve the quality and quantity of both branch and client/member referrals
  • Present these findings to executive management at the credit union to gain buy-in to program modifications and potential opportunities

Target the Right Demographics To Improve Results: The Top 20%

Heading into year two is the time to refresh the marketing plan, after completing the assessment to determine what’s working. It’s critical to identify ways to segment advisors’ books of business to target the right audiences with the most opportunity. It’s typical to find that the top 20% of clients will account for the majority of the revenue generated.

Even though advisors may not realize it at first, segmentation of the book (and offloading of the lower half to two-thirds of it) actually improves the quality of communication and deepens relationships with the retained client base, prompting AUM increases and better referrals. When faced with a smaller client load, advisors will engage a deeper consultative approach that builds the relationship with the client and may lead to more wallet share being brought into the investment portfolio or the credit union. It also allows another advisor to build better relationships with the offloaded “B” list of clients, growing them to top 20% list status.

We recommend that advisors work with the program managers to do the following:

  • Set goals for growth with the executive management of the financial institution
  • Develop a new and improved, more targeted marketing plan
  • Implement new processes that create efficiencies
  • Plan key measurements — make a six-month commitment to hitting milestones

Coach, Measure, Monitor For Continued Success

Sales training and coaching is critical in developing a successful investment program. When advisors take a more proactive, consultative, and holistic approach, they will do a better job for financial services clients, build trust and bring more assets into the institution. However, if they have been used to simply being reactive to walk-up traffic in the branches, or if they had such a large book of business that they’ve not had time to really meet with the clients, then they may require consistent coaching to change their processes and recognize the value of longer-term, deeper relationships.

Education is key. Bring in additional sales training from the outside when it will enhance the advisors’ knowledge base and assist the members. Sales training from external product partners can educate advisors well on the value of certain products and identify the types of clients for whom these products are most appropriate.

Utilize subject matter specialists from the broker-dealer to add products to each individual’s portfolio — many investors may need life, disability, or long-term care insurance but if the financial advisor is unfamiliar with these products, he/she will be uncomfortable in presenting these products to clients. If they need additional support, the broker-dealer specialist is there to work with them and with the client.

Don’t forget education for the client, too. Your broker-dealer can help develop workshops that provide an educational foundation for the clients. Increase workshop outreach to clients on topics that are appropriate for each life stage. Focus on follow-up; teach advisors to always complete the loop. Once they have educated the consumer, it’s important to make the call after the workshop and find out if they understood everything and if they have an interest in any products they learned about.

Repeat The Process

At the end of year two, it’s important to again assess branch, book, and marketing activity. Is there a consistency in certain components? What’s working best? Are observations the same as last year? If not, what has changed?

  • Look at advisors’ GDC activity, changes in structure, and resources
  • Look at new accounts opened within the top 20% list — data mining conducted on only the top 20%
  • Adjust the plan as needed to increase growth for the following year

By working closely with your broker-dealer, taking advantage of all the resources that they make available, and assessing the program on a regular basis, credit unions will grow revenue, establish solid relationships with clients, and build an investment program that works for the long term.

Kevin Mummau is executive vice president, Program Development for CUSO Financial Services LP and for Sorrento Pacific Financial LLC, sister broker-dealers that provide investment program services and marketing support for financial institutions.

CUSO Financial Services and Sorrento Pacific Financial

Sister broker-dealers CUSO Financial Services and Sorrento Pacific Financial help financial institutions build successful investment programs. We deliver flexible yet efficient planning, retirement, investment and insurance solutions to boost your financial growth and deepen relationships with your clients. Call 1-800-686-4724 or visit www.cusonet.com and www.sorrentopacific.com for more information.

 

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Oct. 6, 2014


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