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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 with more than $3.3 billion in assets under management (AUM). 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. Most recently, Dan Kilroy was ranked as the 2018 CFO of the Year by the San Diego Business Journal. 

CUSO Financial Services Client Types and Minimum Account Sizes

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

  • Individuals including high-net-worth ones
  • 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 figures below: 

  • First Mercantile, Financial Planning: None 
  • CAM Active Passive: $25,000
  • CAM Funds, CAM ETF, CAM Index, AssetMark Mutual Funds, Morningstar: $50,000 
  • CAM UMA, CFS Asset Management Account, AssetMark GPS: $250,000
  • Star IV: $500,000 

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.

CUSO Asset Management Program (CAM) 

CAM 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 serves as the account manager (except for CAM Managers and CAM Strategists accounts managed by third-parties selected by clients). 

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 CAM clients in one of the following sub-programs: 

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

CFS Asset Management Account 

Clients of this 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. 

PlanMyPortfolio (PMP) 

In this program, assets are allocated across different ETFs as deemed appropriate based on their risk tolerance, financial goals and other factors. CFS would monitor this model portfolio and rebalance it when it considers the move necessary. Clients can access and monitor this account via Jemstep Advisor Pro, an online cloud-based advisor platform.

FTJ FundChoice 

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. 

AssetMark, Inc. 

For this 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. 

Financial Planning 

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. 

Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans 

Some CFS partners can also provide investment advisory and fiduciary services to employer-sponsored retirement plans. These individuals can perform various tasks such as helping plan sponsors remain compliant with government regulations and ramp up enrollment efforts. IARs may provide advice on the following types of plans: 

First Mercantile 

First Mercantile Trust Company works with CFS to provide employer-sponsored retirement plan clients with access to First Mercantile’s custodian and investment agent services. The firm may assist in the following: 

  • Selecting and monitoring plan investment options
  • Completing account documents
  • Reviewing investment performance reports
  • Educating plan participants

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. 

CUSO Financial Services Fees

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 1.95% of client assets.

*Estimated investment management fees do not include brokerage, custodial, third-party manager or other fees, which can vary in amount. Fee amounts based on maximum 1.50% fee for asset management services.  
Estimated Investment Management Fees at CUSO Financial Services*
Your Assets CUSO Financial Services Fee Amount
$500K Up to $7,500
$1MM Up to $15,000
$5MM Up to $75,000
$10MM Up to $150,000

What to Watch Out For

In the past several years, the SEC filed actions against CFS noting that RIAs associated with the firm failed to disclose selling share classes of mutual funds that pay 12b-1 fees, when lower-cost share classes of the same funds were available to clients. In 2018, CFS entered into settlement terms to refund clients. CFS corrected all share class selection deficiencies as of March 2018.

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. 

But because fees can come from several sources due to the open-architecture nature of CFS, you should closely examine the fee documentation provided to you. 

Opening an Account With CUSO Financial Services

To contact CFS, call (800) 686-4724, email cfsweb@cusonet.com or send a message on https://cusonet.com/investment-clients/.

Tips for Finding a Financial Advisor

  • Before signing on with any financial advisor, make sure he or she is a fiduciary, who is ethically bound to put your best interests first. In the financial services industry, these professionals are generally held to higher standards than other types of advisors. 
  • Narrow your search by using our SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool. After you complete a short questionnaire, it links you with up to three local advisors. You can review their profiles and compare their expertise before making a decision. 

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

How Many Years $1 Million 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.

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

Methodology To determine how long a $1 million nest egg would cover retirement costs in cities across America, we analyzed data on average expenditures for seniors, cost of living and investment returns.

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%. This reflects the typical return on a conservative investment portfolio. 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