Firm Finds Financial Planning Really Builds 'Bond'

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Financial planning software is helping credit unions better understand their members and "really build that bond," according to Steve Hollenbeck, senior vice president of marketing at CUSO Financial Services.

"As representatives demonstrate their expertise with the planning software and the software output, members develop a certain amount of comfort with sharing their financial data with the credit union," Hollenbeck explained. "As a result, the member and the representative have bonded at a certain level. The member has developed a partnership with a trusted advisor."

CUSO Financial Services (CFS), a financial broker-dealer and investment advisor owned and operated by approximately 40 credit unions, has used Profiles+ Professional and Forecaster financial planning software for one year. The Profiles+ suite is offered by San Diego-based Financial Profiles, Inc.

About 80 of CFS' 225 licensed investment representatives nationwide use the Profiles+ platform at 20 of CFS' 75 credit union client sites. "Our representatives work at the credit unions to help them build their investment in financial services offerings to their members," said Hollenbeck.

Planning on the Fly

In fact, one CFS representative worked with an $8-million state lottery winner to put together a financial plan using Profiles+, Hollenbeck said.

During an interview with a member, representatives feed financial data to the Profiles+ tools.

"Reps produce a financial plan that they review with the member. One of the nice things about the process is that they can massage the data on the fly with the client."

The software provides planners with a methodical way to understand a member's values, goals and experience. Results are accompanied by graphics that illustrate the monetary resources members need to reach financial goals.

As they gather more detailed financial information about their members, CUs are in a better position to see which products and services the member is lacking. In other words, credit unions can get the information they need to ask the right sales questions, Hollenbeck said.

"Representatives have often found, after going through Profiles+, that the size of the relationship in terms of investable assets is bigger than the credit union might have thought," he added.

The Forecaster version of the software is less complex, allowing members to pick and choose between modules that include College Funding, Survivor Needs, and Asset Allocation. "Forecaster only takes about 20 minutes to complete per module," Hollenbeck said.

Full-Blown Planning

Asset Allocation, one of Forecaster's new options, allows members to consider their risk tolerance, objectives, and timeline before recommending an allocation.

Profiles+ Professional is a "full-blown planning tool"-reps may spend several hours completing a plan, Hollenbeck continued.

The economic climate is one in which professional financial advice is welcomed, Hollenbeck said.

"With the tech bubble and throughout the 90s, members were in the 'I can do it myself' mode of financial planning," he said. "It's clearly not that way anymore, and members and investors want to put together a cohesive plan."

The recent version of Profiles+, Professional 7.0, gives users the option to produce a plan based either on members' assets or projected cash flow, as well as to include non-qualified stock options in the member's profile.

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