Insite 2012, Pershing’s 14th-annual conference, attracted more than 2,000 attendees, many of whom are broker-dealer home office personnel and BD reps who work through Pershing’s clearing business and use its technology. At its traditional venue, the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Fla., there were also close to 400 sponsors and exhibitors in attendance.
Among those attending this year were 1,329 Pershing “customers” and customer prospects, with the breakdown being:
- Broker-dealer home office associates, 48%;
- BD registered reps, 25%;
- RIAs, 22%; and
- Dually registered, 5%.
Of the big names among the 67 speakers, former President Bill Clinton was tapped to give the opening keynote address on June 6. Also on June 6, Pershing, a unit of BNY Mellon, also announced that it was enhancing its clearing platform to enable representatives of its correspondent broker-dealers to open, fund and manage 529 college savings plans electronically.
Pershing released the latest in a series of studies for advisors on how advisors can better serve sometimes-overlooked market segments on June 6, as well. Called Generation X and Y Investors Are the Future of Your Business, this newest guidebook focuses on how advisors can help increase their long-term success by “servicing the next generation of investors now and incorporating them into their long-term growth strategy.”
Bill Clinton may be seeking to help Barack Obama win again in November, but the former president may have to be careful that he doesn’t overshadow the man he’s trying to help get re-elected. “I thought he was awesome,” said one Pershing colleague to another at the close of the former president’s keynote address on Wednesday at the BNY Mellon company’s annual conference in Hollywood, Fla.
This enthusiastic comment came in response to the charismatic Clinton’s assertion that while he is happy to support the re-election of President Barack Obama, he also values his friendships with former U.S. presidents on both sides of the aisle—including both George Bush Sr. and his son George W. “I love the guy,” Clinton said of Bush Sr. Of George W., he quipped: “We go to the same events together now and roll our eyes at each other’s answers.”
Speaking very much in a spirit of bipartisanship before an afternoon audience at Pershing Insite 2012, Clinton conceded that it’s easier to be a former U.S. president than an incumbent one. He certainly looked the part of a relaxed retired president, tall and slim with silver hair and sporting a sober suit along with a hand-woven multicolored bracelet around his wrist.
And to the biggest round of applause during his entire keynote address, Clinton added that he is frustrated with the poor level of collaboration between Democrats and Republicans in Washington and the “frivolous” commentary of the political media. “At some point we have to re-establish trust between the two parties in Washington,” Clinton said. “If I say something nice about Mitt Romney, the political press acts like I endorsed him even though I oppose his political policies.”
Asked by Pershing Managing Director Frank La Salla during a question-and-answer period how he would fix the nation’s fiscal woes, Clinton pointed to a three-part strategy:
J Resolution of the ongoing U.S. mortgage market crisis, so that consumers can start spending and taking out loans again.
J Repatriation of $2 trillion of U.S. company assets overseas as well as an infrastructure bank to be created by the repatriated capital.
J Reform of U.S. energy policy, which would include jobs creation from the green retrofitting of old buildings.
Audience member Gerald Wood, a chief financial officer with PRS International Advisory Service in Miami, said after Clinton’s speech that his support of Obama during the election process is a mixed blessing.
“I thought he was great,” Wood said of Clinton. “He manages to be non-controversial for a president who was so controversial. But if I were Obama, I wouldn’t know how to fit him into my campaign. Clinton overshadows everybody.”
Speaking to the Pershing Insite audience on June 7, Deepak Chopra said, “People who feel self-power are immune to criticism. They look at it as useful feedback, negative or passive. They’re willing to take risks because they believe in their vision.”
Chopra, the author of 18 best-sellers on human empowerment, further explained, “A true leader is the soul of a collective consciousness.” He believes we are all storytellers of our hopes and wishes, heroic strivers of mythological dimensions. “A good story is the story of the hero’s quest, and a good story starts with a dream,” Chopra shared.
President Obama, Bill Clinton, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Facebook, Twitter—all create a synchronicity of crisis and opportunity, and out of this chaos emerges the new hive mind of social networks, he explained. Plus, great leaders make their own good luck by being aware—present in the moment—and they are fundamentally happy people.
“Well-being is the one thing that predicts everything. The economy, social unrest, conflict, hospital admissions, financial institutions—all are driven by the world’s level of well-being,” said Chopra.
Speaking on June 6 about how Pershing customers—specifically independent broker-dealers who clear at Pershing and RIAs who custody with Pershing Advisor Solutions—benefit from the company’s worldwide footprint, Pershing CEO Brian Shea noted first that “the world economic scene is being restructured” as we speak, and that the economies of the emerging-market nations may, for the first time, “pull developed nations out of recession.”
While many of Pershing’s affiliated advisors remain U.S.-centric in their investing strategies, Shea says many of its customers are also global, and mentioned that Pershing is building on its international expertise by successfully building out the IFA (independent financial advisor) channel in the U.K., where Mark Tibergien, CEO of Pershing Advisor Solutions (PAS), “has been of great value.”
“We execute, clear and report in 65 countries” around the world, Shea pointed out. As a further example of how advisors and their end clients are benefiting from Pershing’s global operations, he said that Lockwood Advisors, part of Pershing’s Managed Account Solutions, is now working with BNY Mellon’s investment management unit to build separately managed accounts that invest globally.
Turning to regulation and the current debate on everything from an advisor SRO to a fiduciary standard for all professional advice givers, Shea first pointed out that while the current regulatory system is a “patchwork quilt” and that if “you were starting from scratch today, there’s no way you would build it as it is,” efforts like Dodd-Frank to reform the system are important, but cautioned that “no regulatory system can reduce risk 100%.”
For his part, Tibergien says, “Our message is resonating” with advisors, pointing out that the RIA custody arm of Pershing has crossed the $100 billion in AUM mark from its 540 advisor relationships, a figure that is growing by 70 to 80 advisory firms a year.
Acknowledging the “very competitive business” that PAS is in, with “formidable” competitors, Tibergien said on June 6 that he’s particularly pleased with the “vast improvements in the client service experience” that have occurred in the four and a half years since he took the helm at PAS.
Tibergien explained that in addition to providing a global set of new products and “keeping pace” in technology, PAS’ “big thrust” this year is in encouraging the custodian’s RIAs to move from a “practice management focus to a business management process.” That resonates particularly well for the kind of advisors that PAS is appropriate for, he said: those who provide comprehensive advice to high-net-worth clients with complicated financial lives.
There’s another overarching message from Tibergien for advisors. For the past five years, Tibergien said, many advisors have been keeping their “noses down and butts up” in focusing on the immediate needs of their businesses, but they now need to “look over the horizon” and determine what they want to be and do in 10 years’ time. For those advisors who do want to grow their businesses, they should consider two areas in which to find new clients: among women investors and younger investors.
While most advisors tend to focus on older, and often male, investors, Tibergien suggested advisors ask themselves whether they want to keep their focus on “a group that is dying” and if they decide to focus on Gen X and Gen Y investors and the massive women’s market, “what does that mean in terms of structure” for advisors’ businesses?•