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Banks help investors with full brokerage services

Years ago, banks didn’t go much beyond offering savings and checking accounts. But these days, as the financial market has become more competitive, banks have been expanding their services and working to change their image, going the extra mile to make consumers feel welcome, comfortable — and ready to come back. From design makeovers like fireplaces, children’s play stations and even coffee shops in the lobby, to an array of services ranging from mortgages to stocks and bonds, banks are reinventing themselves.

From the consumers’ perspective, the convenience of having services like IRA retirement funds and brokerage under the same roof as their checking account is a winning proposition, particularly if they have already developed a trusting relationship with their banker and like the customer service they receive.

“Customers can take care of all financial matters in one place, and it is a great way to simplify one’s life,” said Poonum Vasishth, an investment consultant with Olympic Investment Center, a financial services division of Kitsap Bank.

At Kitsap Bank, securities are sold through Linsco/Private Ledger , a member of NASD/SIPC. Because of this relationship, no proprietary products are sold, as usually are at a traditional brokerage firm.

“Since no proprietary products are offered, there is no pressure for a consultant to favor any investment alternative over another,” she said. “Advice customers receive is unbiased, and focused on their individual needs.”

Not all banks have equal services, but many offer the same as any brokerage, including stocks and bonds, mutual funds, life insurance, annuities and others. Just like with traditional brokers, not all the funds are FDIC insured and may lose value — and they are not the same as regular bank deposits. But customers can get their information and help in the same place as they would cash their checks or make a savings withdrawal.

At Kitsap Bank, the OIC consultants can buy and sell stocks on their client behalf, as well as give financial advice, unlike some online services where an investor has to depend on his or her knowledge entirely.

Just like with any investment, the clients must decide what their goals are, whether it’s for retirement or some other major expense like kids’ college. Those goals, along with the timeline and how much money they have to invest will influence the specific strategies. Other factors include how much risk the investors are willing to take. In some cases, over the years the clients’ priorities have changed, or they have no plan in place but a handful of accounts — an investment adviser will help identify the new strategy.

“We do an individual financial profile on everyone, including risk tolerance and specific retirement questions. We can do a portfolio review of someone’s existing portfolio, and illustrate a client’s current allocation,” Vasishth said. “It is usually quite helpful to get an objective review of investments to make sure everything is still in line with current goals.”.

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