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June 7. Interview with Gabriel Garcia, Pershing.

I recently attended INSITE 2018 put on by Pershing for success-minded advisors. Pershing set up a personal interview for me with Gabe Garcia, Managing Director of Advisor Solutions at Pershing. I wanted to understand how Pershing helps practices succeed, which I was corrected quickly that Pershing thinks in terms of delivering solutions to firms rather than practices.  I got it. And Gabe is right; a practice is just part of the firm. Gabe’s team assists firms by being a “strategic thought partner” helping firms become “preferred employers in their community.”

This lofty goal is delivered by a team of relationship managers with a firm having an assigned manager, but through matrix management having all of the diverse talent of the team available as needed. For example, Pershing helps set up networking communities such as study groups that develop their own agenda. If the agenda is about compensation then one resource may be appropriate, if it is about operations then another. As Gabe put it, “Pershing acts as a forcing function” for their client firms creating an environment for conscious decision making.

Gabe’s style is very hands on meeting with each of his 18 direct reports daily one-on-one when they are in the office. (I added the “in the office part” but maybe he meets by phone?) This is "Inclusion Behavior"... In any case, Gabe by having these one-on-one meetings demonstrates the style of leadership that permeates Pershing from what I could tell: Great leader-member exchange relationships (LMX). High quality LMX leads to great outcomes. (Charles Scharf: “You want to create a culture that is far more open.”  Lisa Dolly: We do things that “keeps us connected.” Jim Crowley: We believe in “transparency and accountability.”)

Everyone I interacted with at Pershing felt part of the team and also individually important to the whole. This is evidence of high quality LMX. (more on LMX HERE)

What are some of the deliverables from Gabe’s team?

  1. Assisting in creating integrated procedures for onboarding new employees for effective fast-starts.
  2. Business reviews: should your next hire be a COO rather than a marketer? What is your big problem and how to solve it in your way.
  3. Growth planning tools to manage to the next level if desired; facilitate discussion of strategies (Merge? Hire? Productivity?)
  4. Improvement in operations through education and training for efficiency and optimal use of resources.
  5. Business process assessment: how is the firm doing what needs doing (and then see #4 above).
  6. Help with performance management processes, job descriptions, career path design that fits the firm, discussion of firm culture.

And then our time was up. I was impressed.



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June 6 Breakout:  Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentoring is a leadership development program that pairs senior executives with (much) younger employees so that the senior member is mentored by the younger to foster an understanding of how the younger generation of employees thinks and acts. It is also a great way for the senior member to learn about social media, demand-drivers of the younger, and other factors they may not be much in tune with due to generational differences. Pershing put together an excellent panel of people with direct experience in reverse mentoring consisting of Moderator: JamiLynn Cimino, Vice President, Pershing, Lisa Bonner, Head of Enterprise Analytics Change Management & Communications, Cigna, Mike Row, Chief Relationship Officer, Pershing, and Alicia Saka, Business Operations Manager, Moss Adams LLP. The executive summary is that reverse mentoring (RM) in their experience worked as hoped, but there on some major points to consider. Thank you Pershing for allowing me to report on this and the other great subjects at this premier success-minded advisor event.

Here are some takeaways:

Lisa – RM is about “building trust, building connectedness. Seeing where the next ideas come from.” It was noted that good leaders are willing to look everywhere for the next great idea, referring to Jack Welch in 1999 pulling his younger staff together so he could understand the internet.

Alicia – It was important to “get someone in my corner who was a champion… Get a sponsor and tie to a business strategy of the firm. Wait for the right moment.”

JamiLynn – She echoed Alicia. “It is essential to have a Senior Executive and a young member in partnership to champion the effort.”

Mike – On why do this: at Pershing, “the program is not an end, it is a mechanism to accelerate change.  It is a way to facilitate communication. Fostering internal communication is a good way to get people talking. Trust building starts the relationship that can grow.”

Leadership is about building trust and RM does that. These comments about RM reminded me of Comey earlier: “Somehow I’ve got to get people around me that see things differently.” Leadership is also about recruiting and retaining good people and JamiLynn commented that RM is a great tool for this. Alicia agreed, “We have pretty bad retention at a certain level… WE are losing talent. We wanted to give them another incentive to stay. RM has been a great way for top performers to find needed engagement.” Alicia is referring to a great outcome of RM: Senior mentees can unofficially reverse the roles by finding engaging work, many times not part of the younger employee’s job description, that is interesting and challenging. Leaders (should) know that fostering Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCB) generally results in lower voluntary turnover. RM itself is a form of OCB.

Lisa – On online presence and social media, RM provided a means for leaders to learn “how our employees are using it, how our competitors are using it. I saw how quickly these new ideas could be applied to make a difference.”

Mike – “Senior management creates a resource, a pool of talent (that) fosters that availability of knowledge… It creates tangible evidence that we an organization trying to grow” which impresses their client firms. However, “it is important for the mentee (Senior) to let the mentor drive.” As a mentee, I found that “having to explain what I am doing clarifies the issues.”

Some tips included:

  1. If a pairing doesn’t seem to be working, give them a business case to solve together. This creates the agenda for the next few meetings.
  2. Meet regularly, say once a month, for 9 months. The mentor creates the agenda. Make sure the mentee’s assistant is informed of what is needed as this can help the mentee stay on task.
  3. Mentors need to check their ego at the door and be respectful; they need to spend time getting to know their mentee. They may need coaching on this. Mentors may also need coaching on letting the mentor manage the meetings.
  4. Meetings are best in person, but chat, skype, gotomeeting can work, just are not as successful. However, some organizations are scattered geographically and this is the only way to be inclusive in an RM program.

Mike – “Let’s have a conversation that moves the ball forward for both of us” is the right attitude.

Lisa – “It’s about building trust. It is about building connectiveness. (It is) a paradigm shift – the next great idea can come from anywhere. It’s fun… you will laugh.”

RM is not for the faint of heart, but the payoff in ideas, retention, productivity, and fun can be worth it. Pershing has a white paper of the subject: .

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June 6. General Session. Pershing Management Discussion.

Lisa Dolly, Chief Executive Officer, Pershing and Jim Crowley, Chief Operating Officer, Pershing were very candid about the purpose of Pershing and how they go about leading the organization towards that purpose. One interesting fact is that Lisa and Jim share an office. I don’t know how they decide whose turn it is to get coffee, but the cultural marker of this is significant. Note that throughout the conference as I had informal discussions with Pershing executives and line-employees this idea of shared responsibility made real by the shared space permeates. Everyone was working in the same direction: how can they help their client firms succeed? As Jim noted, you have “transparency and accountability when you share an office.” Jim mentioned some key tools for firms such as Salesforce integration using the CRM seamlessly to serve firm clients through data integration and communication.

MoneyGuidePro likewise is fully integrated for planning and report generation with NetX360® updating data real-time. The goal is to have NetX360® morph to NetXWealth to “pull in all tools… to do the work with managed investments.  We will have It built on a client-centric model.” Client-centric is important as that is how firms visualize their business, by client not by account.

Lisa explained that “using data to create better user experience” is the future. Using the client data at Pershing provides the power to “create a better user experience… Self-service was an important concept to deliver… (it) allows control to be in the hands of the user.” Pershing is guided by the reality that many clients want control in their own hands for many activities. This is good for firms as well as it frees their staff time to concentrate on delivering intellectual capital that enhances the relationship. All-in-all an impressive leadership team hitting on many of the qualities associated with positive organizational outcomes. Jim Comey was next on.  Stay tuned.

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June 6. Keynote Speaker:  Jim Comey.

Mike Row, Chief Relationship Officer, Pershing and James Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (2013-2017) had a back-and-forth frank discussion on “The Ethical Leader”. I took three pages of notes as I knew that as “Press” at this event, I should make sure the comments could be shared.  Here are the key take-aways (lots of them)”.

One of the first leaders Jim encountered was when he was a stock-boy at the grocery store. “Harry Howell was a great boss – tough and kind. We knew this guy loved us, but he had real high standards and we tried so hard to please him.” After Jim made a major mistake, Harry simply said to clean it up and walked away; no dressing down. “My love and desire to be even better went up.” That is a great leadership memory to take with you! As Jim said of leadership, “I want to offer a vision… of what it should look like.” Jim based much of his comments on loyalty to institutions: “What is in the interest of this institution in the long term. Truth is the central value in any successful company and any successful country. As a leader I can make better decisions if told the truth especially about myself.” Jim wasn’t being specific about today’s world one way or another, but I sensed some point to him bringing up truth. A goal of a leader is to create trust with their followers and truth is basic to trust.

Jim had a thing for the “impostor complex” a term I wasn’t familiar with at the time but have found that it is the self-belief that someone will discover you are a fraud, even (and more likely) if you are not a fraud. Sort of “They really think I know what I am doing; I hope they don’t find out that I am not sure I do!” The reason this was important in the discussion is that as a leader, Jim felt he had to “flatten the hill” meaning that he had to make it easier for subordinates of all levels to reach the leader (him). The idea is that if Jim were way up on a steep hill, that presents a problem. Jim: “I have to overcome my impostor complex to flatten the hill. You can’t get the truth without flattening the hill.” To do this: “First is the way you model and way you listen. The more you risk yourself the more likely you get the outcomes want to see.” For example, Jim tried to relax the dress code of the FBI by jettisoning the very “funerial” look special agents specialized in to relax the communication atmosphere. Jim needed to “create for people a safe place. Listening requires the leader to shut up” to get the truth. He contrasted his ethic about truth to the Cosa Nostra noting that their culture is based on lying all the time. He segued to Martha Stewart saying that the reason for the prosecution was that it is the job and duty of the FBI to document for the US Attorney all lying, including that of the rich and famous. He has a problem with liars; he believes America deserves a culture of truth.

Further on leadership, he gave some personal observations. “You have to have enough confidence to be humble… The only way you will get better is to shut up and listen.” “It takes enough confidence in yourself to enjoy other people.” “I built structures that are set up to tell me I am wrong” mentioning he had staff that had total permission to come into his office after a meeting and say “No dude, that was all wrong!” It’s important to get “people around me that sees things differently.”

Jim noted that, unfortunately, “the nature of hard decisions is that they are not susceptible to confirmation” in that once the decision is made there is no checking to see how it would have gone otherwise. Regarding these decisions he always considered how it would affect the institution; would the decision damage the institution. “You gotta do the thing that is least bad to the institution” (yes he said “gotta”). The context being the Clinton email announcement so close to the election. As he said, “Let’s root for ‘let’s find out what the facts are’.”

Jim summarized his outlook on America. “I’m real worried about the American set of values. It’s what it means to be American.” However, he noted, “In the wake of a forest fire there is room to grow.” (Ecologists will likely remind us that what comes in the wake of a fire is a different flora and fauna than previous). He believes “There is a deep culture in this country. It is about the rule of law, truth, and integrity of our institutions. It is a set of ideas that a diverse group believe in.” So, you be the judge as to what current message he is sending.

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June 6, Session #2 Strengthen your foundation with operations excellence

Four experts came at us in this one! Jeremy Johnson, a VP at Pershing, moderated a panel of Pershing experts emphasizing it is time for all firms to “sustain a culture of quality management.” Jeremy and Anthony Ruffo (VP Pershing) together made some great points:

  • Make client onboarding a wholistic process. It’s not just opening accounts, but a client experience that needs to be managed for quality.
  • Pershing helps their clients with the shrinking margin problem by adding efficiencies that increase productivity that in turn drives profits. (I guess they aren’t self-driving?)
  • There is technology to help the efficient onboarding. Ask for help from relationship managers.
  • Training is available on all aspects of onboarding, so no excuses!
  • The systems if used correctly will help at audit time as they capture the total workflow.
  • If you are experience 7 days of ping-pong paperwork on workflow items, systems can turn this into a less than 2-hour process.

Jason Betz (Director, Pershing) chimed into the discussion saying, “Client onboarding creates the client experience” while reducing errors. “You can set up all your required forms so every registration has all required forms whether yours or ours. This is integrated into client onboarding which eliminates almost all NIGOs.”  This allows scale for greater productivity. Another productivity tool is eSignature capability accepting most major providers’ formats. Stephanie DiMaulo (Director, Pershing) is a great fan of the onboarding systems since it “allows What’s Next input (I’m not a user, so this is close to right, I think) for funding, standing instructions, account openings all at once.” This gets rid of the waiting around time for each piece to complete in order to do the next.

        In the “coming soon” category, operations excellence will be enhanced multiple registration capability to facilitate new clients getting it all done at once, which is what they expect!  Also, Jason says an Advisor Transition Tool is being built to mass upload groups of accounts for processing to complete opening of new accounts (end of year?). Anthony summarized the session saying it is important to be a leader in this process at your firm: Create goals, work with the training group, rollout the new way of doing business in stages for quality control. Create champions and advocates of those who will adopt new processes and technology. And yes, there will be those who don’t want to change, so a leadership skill here is to sideline them to avoid poisoning the well.

        Jeremy finished with comments such as, “The culture of the firm is respected… ultimately it is your firm.” Pershing is there with the Quality Scorecard to see how your firm is doing and work for improvement. Training is personal and online and they will help design firm-specific certifications to help employee development. Millennials love certificates by the way.

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