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    Improve Your Retail Investment Program

    You want your institution's members to have the best customer experience possible. As you evaluate ways to improve, consider how your retail investment program fits into your overall product mix and helps members meet their life goals and investment needs. Here are six elements to look for in a dedicated investment program partner.

    1. Compliance

    Your retail investment program partner should work with your state insurance regulators and oversee compliance with regulators and organizations, such as the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) and FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), to minimize your institution's risk and liability and prevent compliance-related issues. Here is what to look for in a partner company:

    • History of compliance and good status with regulators, with minimal listed disclosures and regulatory events

    • Frequent on-site audits and home-office management visits, to ensure advisors and other employees adhere to the program's guidelines, follow approval requirements, and report transactions properly

    • Supervisory structure that includes sufficient staff experts to review and approve trades, minimizing complaints and liability issues

    • Appropriate disclosures listed on all documentation

    2. Program management

    One big benefit to offering a retail investment program is the ability to offer investment assistance and products to members without employing a staff of financial advisors. For your program to be successful, you must be able to rely on the expertise of your partner to design an appropriate program for your institution's members. Check that your partner has designed and executed similar (successful!) programs before, offers a range of products suitable to your members, and will provide your staff with easy-to-understand information on contracts and commissions.

    3. Marketing

    Is your retail investment partner helping you market financial products and services to your members? The right partner will offer promotion that fits your institution's branding and preferences.

    • You should be able to choose whether your partner performs all marketing services or adds services to complement your existing in-house marketing

    • Your financial institution should be able to customize the marketing your members receive

    • Your partner should private label sales materials so that members see only your institution's name and brand

    • You should have access to a library of sales materials displaying your financial institution's information

    4. Training

    Though a retail investment program provides advisors to work in your institution, your staff still needs training to recognize sales opportunities and answer questions about the program. Your investment partner should provide your staff with customized training, mentoring, and coaching in the sales process and financial planning. In addition, your partner must provide on-site advisors with in-depth training on your financial institution, its members, investment and other products available, and all aspects of the retail investment program.

    5. Technology

    Financial technology moves quickly, and your partner needs to ensure your institution's investment program stays ahead of the competition. Look for modern tools and solutions that make life easier for your staff and members.

    • Electronic processes cut paperwork and labor expense for procedures such as investment purchases and compliance reviews

    • Independence from your financial institution's internet and firewall reduces transaction time and frees your IT department from supporting the investment program

    6. Price

    Price for your investment program will vary, of course, with how the program is set up and managed. However, regardless of your choices, make sure your investment partner is open and transparent on pricing. As with any contract, you should know exactly what you'll be paying and what you'll receive in return.

    Your retail investment program should be an integral part of your financial institution's member offerings. When you choose the right partner, you'll be able to create a program members will value and respond to for years to come.

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