I landed an internship on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 1982. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 miles away in Tampa, Fla., Invest Financial Corp. broke new ground as the first firm to close a stock sale from inside the lobby of a bank-the Coast Federal Savings & Loan in Sarasota.
At the time, nearly 50 years had passed since Congress had enacted the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, separating banks from brokerages. And the regulators were not particularly happy about bringing banks and brokerages back together. The investment representative's office inside the bank had to be "separate and distinct" from the lobby, right down to the color of the carpet.
So as Invest looked to expand its footprint, the firm created a turnkey "program in a box," covering every aspect needed to start up an Invest Center. Considering the environment at the time, this rigid, well-defined approach gave banks and reps the confidence they needed to blaze forward compliantly in the new frontier.
Fast forward 30 years, and we see financial institutions today taking ownership and private labeling their investment programs. With the flexibility and latitude they have today, they have adapted their programs to suit the culture within the institution and the community.
To commemorate Invest's 30th anniversary, many reps and programs who joined the firm during its first decade have shared some of their experiences with me.
Brian Culloty, for example, a 26-year veteran of Carrollton Financial Services in Baltimore, credits his success to the financial planning focus of Invest since the beginning. The process of financial planning is still at the core of his business, but the way that plans are prepared has changed over our 30 years. Invest no longer houses a financial planning service bureau. As reps gained more education and pursued professional designations, the firm developed tools and resources to support financial planning for the rep at the point-of-sale.
When Rob Jacobsen joined Invest, he set up shop at Johnson Bank in Racine, Wis., a program that remains one of our longest-tenured and top-producing programs. Like Brian, Rob also cites financial planning as the cornerstone of his growth plans. Much of my conversation with Rob, and his program manager Brian Lucareli, centered on the importance of relationships and how they have evolved over time. While the bank contracted with Invest for a program-in-a-box, Brian noted that Invest long ago had moved into the role of strategic partner, becoming one of the key points in his sustainable business model. He specifically mentioned the strong relationships between all four stakeholders-the advisor, the financial institution, the clients and the broker dealer-and how they work in harmony.
In July 1988, Mary Alsup-Niedergerke started her Invest career with First State Bank of St. Charles in Missouri. For Mary, what stands out as the most significant transformation in her business is the client experience. In the early days, if clients walked in to check on their investments without an appointment, it was a tedious, manual process to pull everything together. "We had to figure all the rates of return by hand. At one time, I had three sales assistants helping me," she recalls.
Clearly, technology has changed all that. One sales assistant now supports Mary and her clients. Client information is maintained in a contact management system, account documents are stored digitally, and at the touch of a button Mary can pull up all her clients' account holdings and give them a report on the spot. As a result, the overall client experience has been greatly enhanced.
Brent Huff, a 28-year industry veteran and Invest relationship manager, remembers when regulations first required the "Not FDIC Insured" disclosure on all forms, communications and marketing pieces. Brent thought that would virtually cripple the industry. "It was a big deal at the time. Obviously, we made it through just fine."
Over the next 30 years, Invest will remain focused on building solid partnerships, innovation, technological efficiencies and helping the next generation of investors achieve their life goals.
President and CEO
Invest Financial Corp.
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