While holding a series of top jobs at Envestnet over 16 years — most recently as group president of advisory services — Lori Hardwick could be found at an unusual place for a top executive: manning the Envestnet booth at advisor conferences.
When asked why, Hardwick would say she liked to maintain direct interaction with end clients — advisors — and conferences were where she could find them.
When asked about that advisor-centric approachs, Hardwick said in an April interview “that’s the kind of executive I am.” But wouldn’t people speaking to her at exhibit hall booths often vent their unhappiness? That never bothered her, Hardwick recalled, and in fact it’s important that leaders like herself “don’t hear just what you want to hear. When people stop complaining, then you have to worry, because they don’t care anymore.”
With the industry “changing so fast and having so many different constituents across the advisor landscape,” she said, it’s important for leaders to understand that “every client’s important,” and that their role is to help each client build “their own practice their own way.”
That approach, she suggested, is why she was so happy to be named COO of Pershing, reporting to Lisa Dolly, the former COO who’s now the Pershing CEO.
Don’t be fooled by Hardwick’s pleasant demeanor and smiling face: She’s also a hard-nosed businesswoman who at Envestnet was responsible for sales to both broker-dealers and RIAs, two constituents who are heavy users of Pershing’s platform. She’s no stranger to technology, either, knowing that training advisors to be effective users of technology platforms like NetX360 is at least as important as developing that technology. “Our best ideas,” she said in a previous Investment Advisor cover story, “always come from our clients; they’ve never steered us wrong.”
So what about Pershing’s recent announcements that there will be four digital advice providers, aka robo-advisors, available to Pershing’s clients, integrated with its NetX360 platform? “I can’t help myself” from staying in touch with technology developments, Hardwick said, which is why “I’m so excited about the strategy” at Pershing to give its RIA and broker-dealer clients “the ability to choose.” That open architecture approach will allow advisors “to choose whatever’s right for them” when it comes to robo-advisors and other technology solutions. “We want to be known as the easiest custodian to work with, recognizing that “advisors don’t always look the same […]. They want to retain their unique look and feel.”
As for her COO role at Pershing— she shares an office with CEO Dolly, which happens to be a Pershing tradition — Hardwick said, “We’re at an interesting point in the financial services industry. I figure this is the time to make change, to impact clients. I feel lucky to be surrounded by people” at Pershing, many of whom have been at the company for decades. “I’m the coach, they’re the players,” referring to those at Pershing with long tenures, “so I can plug into the experts around me,” while taking advantage of the “extreme amount of teamwork and cooperation” at the company.
And the reference to her being a hard-nosed businessperson? “I have to be hard-nosed,” she said, suggesting that while she had only been COO for eight weeks at the time of the interview, “there will be some changes we have to make to stay on top of our game,” since “they didn’t bring me in to keep everything the same.”
While she brings a “fresh perspective, fresh eyes” to Pershing and is no stranger to the custodian and clearing worlds, Hardwick admitted her new role has been “a huge upswing for me,” particularly considering “all the regulations on the banking side” of Pershing’s business.
Ironically, however, she said “some of the biggest growth we’re having on the advisory side is our banking solutions, for both the high-end RIAs and BDs looking for lending and mortgage” services as they “morph into family offices.” That growth for Pershing from the banking services, made easier through Pershing’s Bank of New York Mellon connections, is mirrored in the success of advisory firms using those services. “It’s amazing,” she said, “how rapidly those firms are growing.”
There’s another benefit to those banking and lending solutions, she suggested: It eases the recruiting of wirehouse advisors, especially to “independent aggregator networks” like High Tower, Focus Financial and Dynasty, since the wirehouses have long offered similar services to end clients.