Pershing’s Collaborative Culture and CEO DeCicco’s Priorities

At the top levels of Pershing, it’s not uncommon for executives to have several decades worth of longevity at the firm. Chairman Brian Shea and Chief Relationship Officer Jim Crowley, both of whom had major roles at Pershing Insite 2013, which ended Friday, fit the pattern, as does new CEO Ron DeCicco and COO Lisa Dolly.

Ron DeCiccoIn an interview with DeCicco (left) and Dolly during the conference, both acknowledged that for executives at Pershing, it’s common practice to get experience in different divisions within the firm, which provides a strong base for taking on higher-level executive positions.

However, they also were quick to say that among those veterans, Pershing likes to sprinkle in “fresh blood” from the likes of Mark Tibergien, who was brought in to run Pershing Advisor Solutions in 2007, and more recently John Brett, who earlier this year was named to head Pershing’s managed accounts business. In addition to a long career at Merrill Lynch, Brett most recently ran MetLife’s broker-dealers, who cleared through Pershing.

“We supplement our homegrown talent with people from the outside, like Mark Tibergien,” said DeCicco, who assumed Shea’s position as CEO earlier this year.

“It’s a special culture,” said Dolly, which she called “highly collaborative,” suggesting that if an executive wanted to oversee any particular Pershing operations, it’s important to have “sat in someone else’s seat.” While DeCicco said “we’re a metrics-driven organization,” as an example of that collaboration he cited the fact that he and Dolly share an office.

As for his priorities, DeCicco says they’re “driven by our customers,” and since Pershing doesn’t sell its own products, the company’s overarching goal is to make its customers the “most competitive in the marketplace.” He sees “advancing the advisory model” as one of Pershing’s top priorities, especially those advisors who are dually registered. He also sees threats to Pershing’s RIA and broker-dealer businesses since the “younger generation is more likely to get advice online,” which partly explains Pershing’s ongoing investment in technology, especially mobile tech.

Dolly sees the human capital issue as a major challenge for advisors. “Mark [Tibergien] has helped us out greatly there,” she said, mentioning that she had attended that day a lunch at Insite that focused on how advisors can attract and recruit more female advisors, especially through coaching and mentoring. “Mark and his team has helped us” realize the importance of women not just as advisors, but as clients, she said, citing the sheer size of woman-controlled wealth and household assets in the country.

Addressing the issue of regulation, another big challenge for advisors, DeCicco said that when it comes to restoring investor trust in financial institutions that was damaged by the financial crisis, “regulation can’t do it alone.” While he said that “as an industry we have to take responsibility” for that damaged trust, he called for more collaboration between Congress, regulators and industry groups to create true “investor-centric” regulation rather than the all-too-often instances of “agency-centric” regulation, where regulators compete against each other, such as in the fiduciary rulemakings now under way at the SEC and the Department of Labor.

Dolly said “we can be helpful from an educational standpoint,” which is why so many Pershing staffers participate in industry associations like FINRA.

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Check out more coverage of Pershing Insite 2013.

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