Building a Strong Advisor Lineup

How to Turn Your People Into A Successful Wealth Management Team

For credit unions that want to grow their wealth management business, and help more members achieve financial security, a new study, conducted by Kehrer Bielan and sponsored by CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), sets clear benchmarks to strive for. They include reducing advisor coverage of share deposits and increasing share of revenue from advisory fees.

How do you get there from where you are today? The short answer is to hire more advisors. But that’s just part of the story.

To truly succeed, your credit union must begin laying the groundwork to grow your advisor team organically. Doing so requires a commitment from the top to make investment services core to the business. Here’s a short checklist of best practices for recruiting, onboarding and retaining a team of financial advisors that meets your members’ financial needs and helps your credit union grow.

Set the Goals: Best Practices Benchmarks

The study identified four benchmarks that credit unions must achieve in order to make wealth management core:

  1. Advisor coverage of share deposits
    $150 million share per advisor—typically requiring more than double the average credit union’s number of advisors
  2. Share of revenue from advisory fees
    50%, a 52% increase over typical credit unions
  3. Share of new assets
    50%, a 22% increase above average
  4. Referral penetration
    1.5% of members annually, 50% higher than the current average

These goals serve three purposes: first and foremost, to help credit unions maximize the short- and long-term value of their investment services. Second, they help credit unions establish a foundation that sets up advisors to thrive, supporting everything from recruitment, to onboarding and retention. And finally, they ensure that your credit union has the right number of advisors to help members achieve financial security, creating longer-term relationships and building share of wallet.


Today’s recruiting environment is highly competitive, with many credit union executives reporting that it’s the most challenging they have ever encountered. Credit unions that have been successful in growing headcount have one big thing in common: They emphasize the importance of growing their own talent over only recruiting from outside the organization.

These credit unions typically employ a junior/associate advisor model in which seasoned advisors mentor those with less experience and seed them with established accounts. This not only facilitates hiring and grooming promising candidates, such as successful member services representatives, it also better serves members: Teaming develops work efficiencies, which creates more time spent with clients and gives clients access to more professional advice. It enhances succession planning by making it easier for younger advisors to assume client relationships as older advisors retire. And these associate advisors can connect with clients in their age group that senior advisors may have difficulty reaching. To recruit, look for soft skills, such as inquisitiveness and genuine caring for members’ financial welfare.


During the onboarding process, it’s important to create a compensation package that prepares new advisors for long-term prosperity. Common practice is to put new advisors at the top of the compensation grid within six months to a year. However, that encourages transactional sales over the acquisition of new assets, a recipe for failure when the advisor transitions to a lower grid level.

Instead, focus advisor trainees on gathering assets that generate recurring income. This requires a more strategic approach to onboarding that includes a longer initial term—typically three years—and a compensation structure that encourages holistic advice and incentivizes acquisition of new assets.


The price of advisor turnover can be steep: According to a report by financial accounting advisory firm EY, a third of financial advisory firms retained no more than half of their clients after transitioning to the next generation of leaders—well below what EY calls the “ideal” target of 90 percent.1

The Kehrer Bielan study found that credit unions with the highest retention rates tended to move their senior advisors to a “second story” role as book brokers, also known as independent advisors, while offering them a higher compensation grid level to make up for lost referrals. This provides multiple benefits to the advisors, including access to additional support staff, the ability to focus on working their existing book and best clients, and freedom from the burden of working with multiple branches. As a result, credit unions not only retained their best advisors (and their clients) but also opened branch territory for additional advisors and made it easier to backfill with additional headcount.

The CBSI Difference

Building financial services into the core of your credit union’s business is an optimal way to increase member loyalty, satisfaction and share of assets. This, in turn, multiplies the impact across a greater number of member households and across multiple revenue streams.

With CBSI as a trusted partner, your credit union doesn’t need to be an expert in investment services to succeed. Developed using sophisticated predictive analytics, CBSI’s Blueprint for Success includes a five-year shared vision, a strategic business plan and detailed 12-month integrated plans tailored to your credit union. In addition, we can help you recruit advisors and provide them with best-in-class training and coaching, then support them with data, process, products and solutions, as well as system and platform integration.

Make Wealth Management Core

What distinguishes top-performing credit unions? They know the importance of making wealth management core. This infographic explains why – and helps you begin to understand how – you can elevate your investment services program.

5 Reasons Why Your Wealth Management Services Aren’t Measuring Up

Wondering why your investment program isn’t performing the way it should? This list helps you see what successful credit unions are getting right that you may be getting wrong.

Want to Learn More?

Your credit union may be missing opportunities to help more of your members achieve financial security. Learn more about how and why you should make wealth management core to your credit union with our Best Practice Guide, Checklist, White Paper, and more. To access, fill out this quick form.

1The Street, “Financial planners are retiring faster than they can be replaced,” October 12, 2018. All other 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.