Credit Union Innovation Starts at the Top

Credit Union Innovation Starts at the Top

How executive leadership and change management drive wealth management success.

November 15, 2019

Financial security is the top priority for credit union members, but today many of them don’t see credit unions as their partner in achieving this goal.

Although 52% of credit union members prefer accessing financial services at a credit union, when it comes to wealth management services only 3% of members use their credit union, according to a recent study conducted by Kehrer Bielan and sponsored by CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. (CBSI).

Credit unions have an invaluable opportunity to deepen their relationship with members, and one way they can accomplish this is by increasing the number of members helped with investment services.

Your credit union should focus on your wealth management program for two key reasons: It aligns with your mission and improves your financial performance.

All credit unions have one primary mission that should drive their business: to empower members to achieve their financial goals. You can fulfill this duty by making investment services as core to your business as savings, loans, credit cards and insurance products.

However, navigating this shift requires organizational and cultural transformation, and this calls for strong executive leadership, a focus on change management and ongoing employee engagement to drive buy-in for this new vision.

By aligning your entire organization with this new approach, your credit union can deepen its relationship with members, drive a better member experience and improve your overall business performance.

Connecting wealth management to financial performance

Credit unions that make investment services a core part of their business experience:

• Double the investment revenue. These credit unions generate $2,582 in investment services revenue for every million in retail deposits—twice as much as the average credit union.

• Greater profits. They generate $538 in net profit for every million in retail deposits—56% higher than the average credit union.

• More referrals. They have higher customer referral rates than the average credit union.

• Stronger lending business. Members who purchase an investment or insurance product are:

  • 35% more likely to have a first mortgage
  • 100% more likely to have a second mortgage
  • 50% more likely to have a home equity line of credit
  • 93% more likely to have an auto loan

Leading your credit union into a new era

To drive organizational transformation and make wealth management core, add investment services goals to your strategic plan. To achieve this:

 Set the vision. Convene executive leadership to create a 12-month strategic plan that includes investment services goals and share throughout the organization.

Each business unit should have its own tactical plan and benchmarks for achieving the credit union’s new mission. Set key performance indicators and use data to track progress against each business unit’s goals, such as new assets, advisory fee revenue and wallet capture.

Establish employee engagement actions that branch managers must track and report, such as branch and staff-level member referral goals, average assets per member, member appointments per advisor, call center touchpoints and sales-qualified leads from integrated marketing campaigns.

• Grow your advisory business. Introduce more financial advisors to your team and encourage collaboration with other business units.

Provide financial advisors with operational support and state-of-the-art technology, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, a suite of financial planning software and approved product lists to help them deliver a better member experience and accomplish their performance goals.

Also set benchmarks, like referral goals, to encourage collaboration throughout your organization. If other business units understand their performance will be assessed based on these goals, they may be more inclined to serve as partners in growing your advisory business.

• Create an integrated marketing plan. Launch targeted marketing programs internally and externally. Engage your marketing team in efforts to drive this growing line of business. Work with them to develop seminars, digital, email and in-branch promotions, as well as live events pegged to holidays (for example, Retirement Planning Week and National Financial Planning Month) to drive increased member education and awareness.

To win employee buy-in, develop staff engagement and communication initiatives. A dedicated newsletter, for instance, can help educate employees about wealth management’s importance to the overall business.

 Invest in employee training. Employees must be aligned with your credit union’s new vision, but even more importantly, its overall mission. To maximize this alignment, educate staff on credit union members’ six core financial needs:

  • Cash management (deposits).
  • Credit.
  • Growth of assets for the future.
  • Income generation.
  • Protection (insurance).
  • Leaving a legacy for the next generation.

Once staff have this baseline, provide tactical guidance that empowers them to increase member awareness and penetration in investment services. This guidance can include a checklist of digital resources, such as online calculators, guides, e-books and online financial advisory tools that employees can share with members to increase their financial confidence when making investment decisions.

Ensuring each business unit is just as knowledgeable about your wealth management offerings as the team members delivering them will help reinforce the importance of these services within your organization.

• Build buy-in. Your wealth management program only will be as successful as your least-engaged employee. Build buy-in by identifying program ambassadors and internal champions. Team them with a credit union financial advisor and incentivize them by incorporating the performance of your wealth management division as another bonus plan metric, or with enhanced career development opportunities (for example, priority enrollment in an associate financial advisor training program).

Also consider creating an employee recognition program. Use annual reports and employee communications to highlight top performers. Share stories about the impact your credit union and specific employees have had on members’ lives and their long-term financial goals through your investment services program.

If employees feel recognized for their efforts, they may be more invested in the program’s success.

• Begin your transformation. Making wealth management core within your credit union requires strategic vision, leadership and change management. Each of these things is part of the three-legged stool that will underpin your investment services program.

However, this is just the first step in your transformation. Take your new cultural foundation and apply proven best practices to maximize the value of your wealth management business.


ROB COMFORT is the president of CUNA Mutual Group’s broker dealer, CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. (CBSI). In this role, Rob leads 430 advisors at 285 credit unions managing $25 billion in client assets.


CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. (CBSI) provides broker dealer and registered investment advisory services to credit unions throughout the nation, offering a full range of investment and insurance products to help credit unions help their members reach a more secure financial position. CBSI, an affiliate of CUNA Mutual Group, is the leading broker dealer serving the credit union marketplace. CUNA Mutual Group is the marketing name for CUNA Mutual Holding Company, a mutual insurance holding company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Life, accident, health and annuity insurance products are issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company and MEMBERS Life Insurance Company. Corporate headquarters are located in Madison, Wis.

Source: All data from “Making Wealth Management Core in Credit Unions” by Kehrer Bielan Research & Consulting, sponsored by CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), February 2019.

Securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution. CBSI is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America. The representative may also be financial institution employee that accepts deposits on behalf of the financial institution.

© CUNA Mutual Group, 2019. All Rights Reserved. CBSI-2700401.1-0819-1121