Credit unions wading into financial advice market

In the spirit of offering convenience, Lehigh Valley credit unions are incorporating, and in some instances, broadening their financial advisory services to their members.

Credit unions are partnering with financial advisory firms or creating financial entities onsite to give customers a one-stop shop for advice. Customers can meet with a financial adviser to work on investment planning, build a retirement plan, save for college and, in general, put them on the path to effective wealth management.

Common goals

Earlier this year, Riverfront Credit Union installed a financial adviser at its locations. The adviser is Scott Kaufman, of Good Life Financial Advisors in Wyomissing. He recently began working from Riverfront’s offices a few days a week.

Based in Reading, The credit union has 21,000 members, assets of $174.6 million and two Berks County branches,

Riverfront and Good Life found they had much in common, said Kaufman.

“We both were not as concentrated on sales goals as we both wanted to leave the community a better place than how we found it,” he said

He said a survey of Riverfront customers showed they yearned for the credit union to establish an assortment of financial and investment services. Customers wanted to be able to come do their banking and have someone there to talk to about investments and money management.

“I have been doing this for 30 years, and the overriding desire is for a client to plan for retirement or save for college,” Kaufman said. “Client meetings usually fall in one generic category where customers want to know, ‘Am I doing OK? Can I send two kids to college and still retire when I want to?’”

Kaufman offers hours two days a week at Riverfront’s offices. He meets with credit union members to discuss topics such as developing a budget, investing in a financial plan, and laying out short-term, intermediate and long-term goals. He added that many clients are in their 40s and 50s, but there is a growing sector of the younger population coming to meet with him.

“We work with Riverfront to do a deep dive into a client’s cash flow, time frame, risk tolerance and specific goals. We plug into our software and review financial plans,” he said.

Kaufman said he hopes to expand services to future Riverfront offices.

Answering needs

People First Federal Credit Union partnered with a financial advisory firm, People First Financial Solutions, in mid-2018, according to Tim Burke, director of member engagement for the Allentown-based credit union. It has assets of $572.6 million.

The partnership was formed to answer the needs of the credit union’s roughly 70,000 members. Credit union customers were requesting specific investment services, in particular, advice on where to move 401(k) and pension funds. They also wanted help with retirement funds, college savings and selecting an investment plan.

The credit union, which has several Lehigh Valley locations, also has a partnership with Green Life Financial Wellness to provide patrons with “sound financial advice” and reduce credit card debt, create budget sand understand credit reports.

“We know that life happens and many people need financial assistance. We have built several products to help the people of the Lehigh Valley avoid the traps of payday lenders for short-term needs,” Burke said. “We also offer a secured Visa card to give members who may not be able to get one elsewhere the flexibility of a credit card. For people with no or low credit, we also offer a ‘Credit Builder’ loan to help them rebuild their credit score.”

Visions Federal Credit Union has had a five-year partnership with a financial counseling service called Balance, said branch manager Lindsay M. Kennedy. Visions members get free financial advice online and over the phone.

Visions is based in New York but has several Berks County and Lehigh Valley branches. It has nearly 200,000 members and assets of $4.2 billion.

The credit union offers a range of financial services, including investments and discounted insurance through select partners. In addition, the credit union hosts a variety of seminars on financial wellness and investment services for members and the community as a whole.

One Lehigh Valley credit union has been offering financial and investment services in-house.

First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union has been operating its own financial advisory team, First Commonwealth Investment Services, for about 10 years, said John Miller, the credit union’s COO.

The advisory team provides a range of services to credit union customers, including reviewing financial plans and retirement plans; starting an IRA, 401(k) or other savings plan; rolling over savings plans; forming strategies for retirement money; saving for education; and coordinating estate planning.

First Commonwealth, which has headquarters operations in Allentown and Hanover Township, has more than 61,000 members and assets of roughly $721.5 million. It has seven branches, with an eighth scheduled to open in April.

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