March 1, 2011

Operations: Karen Novak

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When Karen Novak began working at what was then called Pershing Management Services in 1996, the custodian was serving “simple money managers; our target was the $0 million to $75 million RIA.” Novak, who was named COO in February 2008, said that 14 years ago, “Schwab and Fidelity were already out there, so we didn’t want to focus on the same—the smaller, simpler IA.” While she says that at PAS “there are still some of those advisors,” Mark Tibergien “helped us get centered on who is our optimal customer: professionally managed, growth-oriented small businesses serving sophisticated clients.”

To do so, Pershing is a “very metric-driven organization,” and using a dashboard created by Evan LaHuta, PAS’s director of “customer experience,” Novak says, “We know every transaction being pumped through the organization: where it originated, if there were any errors coming in and going out. It allows us to see how long it takes us to open up a new account, to fund an account transfer.” Beyond how it helps Pershing internally to ensure good service to advisors, she notes that “we publish that in a monthly scoreboard provided to advisors” through the NetX360 tech platform.

“One of our goals in 2011,” Novak says, is to provide that data to advisors “so their clients know how well their needs are being met,” which she positions as “part of our responsibility to help advisors achieve operating efficiency. We have the data, so we’re sharing it with them.”

On the compliance side of the house, Novak says Pershing has introduced a quarterly compliance forum online with Pershing executives and guest speakers to address issues like the changes mandated by the SEC on Form ADV. On the competitive front, she argues that the crisis of 2008–2009 led advisors to “think about diversifying their custodial relationships,” which is where, she says, the Bank of New York Mellon has become a “powerful partner for us; there are tremendous amounts of synergy in the organization.”

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