Bank Investment Consultant, a publication of SourceMedia Inc. (the publisher of American Banker), interviewed three financial advisers who work at financial services companies that are in Nevada — Shazad Ali of Red Rock Community Bank in Las Vegas; Danny Duffy of Nevada Federal Credit Union, also in Las Vegas; and B.J. Willson of Greater Nevada Credit Union in Carson City — to discuss their outlook and strategy.

The interviews took place in September for the magazine's "Branching Out" regional focus.

What new opportunities are there in your territory?
Shazad Ali: There's a huge retirement community here, and people come to work in the entertainment industry.

Danny Duffy: The credit union is now boosting its visibility through advertising on billboards and on radio and television, and those ads mention investment services, so we're getting more of a presence here.

B.J. Willson: A lot of people retire here from California for the weather and because there is no state tax. I've recently been dealing with greater numbers of pre-retirees planning on moving in the next few years.

What practice management technique has helped you the most when it comes to the bank channel?
Ali: Every quarter I'll make changes to clients' accounts if needed while bringing them up to speed with the investing world at the macro and micro levels. I educate my clients by educating myself.

Duffy: I keep in front of my clients and make sure that they know I'm always here or available by phone.

In this market I think people need to hear your voice, and I'm very proactive about checking clients' accounts and calling them to find out how they're feeling.

Willson: I earn a salary base, so I don't feel pressure to sell, which means I can spend the necessary time on needs-based planning, which leads to deeper, more profitable relationships.

How does your client demographic affect investment and insurance product mix?
Ali: Every client is different. It takes deep conversations to understand each person. I use everything from mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, variable and fixed annuities, bonds, pretty much an even split, although perhaps a little more on the mutual fund side.

Duffy: The demographics here are primarily military and hotel workers, and the majority of the credit union's members are 50 or older, and a lot of them are CD buyers.

So my product mix is a lot of fixed annuities with mutual funds in diversified accounts. The majority of my clients are looking for safety.

Willson: I deal with a lot of managed accounts from recent rollovers and also fixed accounts for capital preservation for people whose emotions can't handle all the market volatility.

What is the biggest challenge you face now?
Ali: The economy and fears of recession, of going into a depression, and what's happening geopolitically right now.

Duffy: The challenge is to get people to trust in the market and in financial institutions. I got a call from a client who was watching people pull money out of IndyMac and he wanted to know how the credit union was doing, not about his investments!

Willson: The FDIC scare is the biggest challenge — we didn't have banks failing in 2001! So it's an educational process of letting people know how investment companies are rated, what's going on in the market, and how elections compound market nervousness.

What advice would you give to a financial adviser who is just entering the banking market?
Ali: Newcomers should give themselves at least two years, hopefully under the wing of a mentor, and develop themselves at advisers, not brokers.

Duffy: Put clients first, take yourself out of the equation, and leave your ego on the shelf.

We need more humble reps in this industry willing to keep it simple and educate clients. People just want to know you care about them, not about how much you know.

Willson: Doctors have to do a three- or five-year internship before they practice. It's the same for financial advisers. Be patient and think long-term.

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