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CUSO Financial Advisors Review

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CUSO Financial Services

CUSO Financial Services (CFS) touts on its website that it specializes in nationwide broker-dealer and investment advisory services. The firm is also unique in that it serves both financial institutions and their clients. 

CFS is a registered investment advisor (RIA) and broker-dealer. The firm offers various asset management programs through investment advisor representatives (IARs). Some of these IARs may also offer stand-alone financial planning services around topics like estate planning and retirement income management.

CUSO Financial Services Background

CFS has been providing investment advisory services since 1997. Today, it exists as a limited partnership wholly owned by Atira Wealth Solutions, Inc., a Delaware-based corporation. 

The firm is led by president and co-founder Valorie Seyfert, who has spent more than 30 years in the financial services industry. She’s been ranked as an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for San Diego County. In addition, other members of the CFS management team have earned several financial services accolades throughout the years.

CUSO Financial Services Client Types and Minimum Account Sizes

CFS provides portfolio management services to the following types of clients: 

  • Individuals, including those with a high net-worth
  • Trusts
  • Businesses
  • Corporate pension and profit-sharing plans
  • Charitable institutions, foundations and endowments

Investment minimums depend on the type of advisory program or sub-program that clients enroll in. We detail the current minimums below: 

  • First Mercantile program and Financial Planning: None
  • Digital Investment Program: $5,000
  • Contour Direct, Contour ActivePassive Portfolios, STAR II Conservative, Income, STAR II VEGA Core Plus: $25,000
  • Contour Funds, Contour ETF, Contour Index Plus, AssetMark Mutual Funds, Morningstar, PFG STAR II, AssetMark ETFs, PFG STAR III Alpha, SEI ETF: $50,000
  • Contour UMA and Contour SMA: $100,000
  • SEI SMA, PFG STAR III VEGA, CFS Asset Management Account, Asset Mark GPS: $250,000
  • STAR IV: $500,000
  • Contour 3rd Party Strategist: Varies by managers

Services Offered by CUSO Financial Services

CFS offers various asset management programs through its associated IARs and unaffiliated third-party firms. We describe these programs below.

The Contour Program provides clients access to different sub-programs that utilize mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), managed accounts and separately managed accounts through Envestnet. This RIA typically serves as the account manager. 

Envestnet would create an investment portfolio for you based on the information gathered by your IAR, including your risk profile, financial goals, tax situation and other factors. Depending on individual circumstances, Envestnet may place clients in one of the following sub-programs: 

  • Contour Funds: invests in mutual funds from different fund families
  • Contour ETF: invests in various ETFs
  • Contour Index Plus: allocates assets among different mutual funds and ETFs 
  • Contour UMA: invests in mutual funds, ETFs, individual stocks and individual bonds
  • ActivePassive Portfolios: invests in different third-party index mutual funds along with one or more actively managed funds from Envestnet’s PMC Fund Family
  • Contour Third-Party Strategists: allocates funds across mutual funds and ETFs selected by third-party asset managers who serve as model providers
  • Contour Direct: may invest in equities, fixed-income, American depositary receipts, options and ETFs

Clients of the CFS Asset Management Account program work with their IARs to create an asset allocation that adheres to the client’s investment goals, risk tolerance and other personal factors. Depending on the information gathered, this account may invest in a variety of different securities. These can include no-load mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, bonds and unit investment trusts (UITs).

This program is available on a discretionary and non-discretionary basis. The former means that clients authorize the firm to make trades in their accounts without getting prior approval. 

Created with FTJ FundChoice LLC, this program provides client access to more than 1,700 no-load mutual funds from more than 200 fund families. IARs would use these funds in order to customize model portfolios for clients in this program. 

For the AssetMark program, AssetMark appoints independent investment management firms to create strategic asset allocation portfolio models for CFS clients. The model uses mutual funds and ETFs including proprietary funds from AssetMark. The managers would monitor and periodically rebalance these portfolios, generally on a quarterly basis.  

IARs with CFS can provide access to Morningstar Investment Services, an unaffiliated investment advisor that can provide advice around no-load mutual funds and ETFs. The IAR would utilize Morningtsr services to customize, monitor and rebalance an appropriate portfolio that may meet your long-term investment goals. 

IARs with CFS may design a comprehensive financial plan to help clients meet their long-term goals. Depending on the needs of the client, this plan may cover the following financial objectives: 

  • Budgeting and cash flow management
  • Corporate 401(k) analysis and retirement planning
  • Estate planning
  • Trust management
  • Business succession planning
  • Education funding through 529 plans and more
  • Life insurance analysis and risk management
  • Retirement income planning
  • Investment and asset allocation analysis

IARs may utilize firm-approved software to assist in delivering advice around these topics.

CUSO Financial Services Investment Philosophy

IARs working with CFS clients may adopt a variety of investment strategies and methodologies. Common methods of analysis include fundamental and technical analysis. 

Fundamental analysis involves taking an in-depth look at the financial state of a company. This could entail a thorough review of the firm’s financial records, earnings, debts and other money-related factors that may help the advisor make educated assumptions about its future performance. By employing technical analysis, the advisor can forecast price movements by looking at past trends. But because past performance never guarantees future results, both methods carry their own risks. 

In addition, IARs take individual factors into account such as the client’s risk tolerance and tax situation when making investment decisions. 

Fees Under CUSO Financial Services

Fee schedules depend on the advisory program and types of securities that the client is invested in. If applicable, CFS would retain a portion of its advisory fee to pay IARs. Asset-based fees for asset management services generally come with a maximum fee of aroudn 1.95% of client assets. Financial planning fees may not exceed $250 per hour or a $10,000 flat fee in a 12-month period.

What to Watch Out For

In the past several years, CUSP has had to list 20 different regulatory disclosures on its Form ADV. These disclosures relate to a variety of types of wrongdoing and as a result the firm has had to pay fines, submit to censure and more.

In delivering its services to clients, CUSO Financial Services works with a variety of affiliated and unaffiliated third-party firms. This framework may raise conflicts of interest as some representatives may be incentivised to recommend or sell specific products. Unaffiliated firms may also charge different kinds of fees for their services. And while these payments won’t go to CFS, they would affect your account size. However, CFS has a fiduciary duty to work in your best interests at all times, and it has certain protocols in place in order to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest.

Opening an Account With CUSO Financial Services

To contact CFS, call (800) 686-4724 or get in touch online by sending a message on its contact page.

All information was accurate as of the writing of this article.

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How Long $1mm Lasts in Retirement

SmartAsset's interactive map highlights places where $1 million will last the longest in retirement. Zoom between states and the national map to see the top spots in each region. Also, scroll over any city to learn about the cost of living in retirement for that location.

Least
Most
Rank City Housing Expenses Food Expenses Healthcare Expenses Utilities Expenses Transportation Expenses

Methodology We analyzed data on average expenditures for seniors, cost of living and investment returns to determine how many years of retirement a $1 million nest egg would cover in cities across America.

First, we looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the average annual expenditures of seniors. We then applied cost of living data from the Council for Community and Economic Research to adjust those national average spending levels based on the costs of each expense category (housing, food, healthcare, utilities, transportation and other) in each city. Using this data, SmartAsset calculated the average cost of living for retirees in the largest U.S. cities.

We assumed the $1 million would grow at a real return (interest minus inflation) of 2%. Then, we divided $1 million by the sum of each of those annual numbers to determine how long $1 million would cover retirement expenses in each of the cities in our study. Cities where $1 million lasted the longest ranked the highest in the study.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Council for Community and Economic Research