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Credential Financial Inc. has a plan to help credit unions compete for the investment dollars of their affluent members at a time when this segment of wealth management is expanding.

To do that, the company is rolling out a new program and certification system to connect credit union partners with qualified portfolio management firms.

The Vancouver-based wealth management firm said Wednesday that this new business will be called the Credential Affiliates Program, with an initial team of 12 portfolio management firms who have met Credential's authorization standards.

"Working with Credential, a trusted Canadian custodian, has expanded both our referral and direct business networks, allowing us to grow alongside Credential and their credit union clients in a sustainable partnership," said Bruce Shewfelt, chief executive of Connor, Clark & Lunn Private Capital, in a statement.

The new program is meant to stop wealthy investors from turning from their credit union to a big lender or other firm for high-net-worth expertise.

It's a very competitive market. The number of wealthy households is growing, and financial consulting group Investor Economic projects that there will be 2.2 million Canadians with assets of more than $500,000 in the next nine years.

"Credential wants to help credit unions work with their members from cradle to grave," said Kim Thompson, senior vice president of advisory services at Credential. She said high-calibre portfolio managers will be able to offer the same services as the banks, while also giving clients access to other wealth management services credit unions offer, such as retirement and estate planning and insurance.

The new initiative follows other expansion moves made by Credential. It became a self-clearing securities firm in January, and subsequently added brokerage services to link credit unions with independent asset managers in May.

Credential now provides dealer and trading services, online brokerage and insurance solutions to its credit union and independent financial institution clients across the country. Assets have been growing quickly, and the firm has $16.2-billion under administration. That's nearly double what it had four years ago.

Credential has been working on setting up the Affiliates program since April.

"Credit unions have a demand in this segment of the market...but they wanted to make sure that there was integrity to the program. It helps them qualify who they're working with," Ms. Thompson said.