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CUSO Financial Advisors Review

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This review was produced by SmartAsset based on publicly available information. The named firm and its financial professionals have not reviewed, approved, or endorsed this review and are not responsible for its accuracy. Review content is produced by SmartAsset independently of any business relationships that might exist between SmartAsset and the named firm and its financial professionals, and firms and financial professionals having business relationships with SmartAsset receive no special treatment or consideration in SmartAsset’s reviews. This page contains links to SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool, which may or may not match you with the firm mentioned in this review or its financial professionals.

CUSO Financial Services (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, which is located in San Diego, is led by CEO and founding partner Doug Ketterer and COO and founding partner Eugene Elias Jr.  

CUSO Financial Services Client Types and Minimum Account Sizes

CFS works with a variety of clients, but the vast majority of its clientele are individuals without a high net worth. The firm also works with:

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
  • STAR II Conservative Income, STAR II VEGA Core Plus, Advisor as Portfolio Manager: $25,000
  • AssetMark Mutual Funds and ETFs, Morningstar, PFG STAR II & 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 Third-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. 

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 Asset Management, Inc. This RIA typically serves as the account manager. 

Meanwhile, 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. 

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 also 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 on 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 around 1.50% 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

CFS has five disclosures on its Form ADV from the past 10 years. These disclosures are attributed to either the firm itself or to one or more of its advisory affiliates. 

In delivering its services to clients, CFS works with a variety of affiliated and unaffiliated third-party firms. This framework may raise conflicts of interest as some representatives may be incentivized 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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