Mark Tibergien, CEO of Advisor Solutions at BNY Mellon Pershing, has prioritized being an employer of choice for minority groups—and wants to inspire other advisers and leaders in the financial planning profession to do the same.
Fifty-one percent of his employees at Advisor Solutions are women, and 42 percent of his Advisor Solutions team are people who come from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Firms part of the Pershing network are generally transitioning from practice to business to enterprise, but are still facing the challenge that within the financial planning profession, only 23 percent of advisers are women, and only 8 percent of advisers are people of color.
Tibergien’s goal is to help others who may be unsure of how to help support diversity, equity and inclusion. He recently sat down with me on my podcast to discuss how advisory businesses can support a more diverse financial planning culture, why being committed to elevating others is critical and how to do that.
Why do you think your company is the employer of choice for women and people of color?
There are a number of reasons that drive it in. Frankly, this is part of the culture of BNY Mellon. As an organization we’ve long thought about the diversity of views as being critical. We try to think about how people are attentive to the ways in which we contemplate our strategy and execute our plans. And it happens that Pershing itself is an 80-year-old company that just has a very community-centric orientation about it.
I think the fact that we’re present where we are helps us to attract many people of color. I think the fact that we have a conscious attitude about the slate of candidates we want to recruit to our business also makes us compelling—our leadership reflects that makeup. So, a big part of our attitude is let’s make sure that we are recruiting and developing the right types of people.
When people start interviewing here, they say, “There are individuals who share my experiences, who look like me, who talk like me, who experienced things like me.” And that just makes a big difference in becoming the right kind of company.
For firms that may have a very small HR department—or no HR department—what are best practices that can increase their level of diversity from a gender perspective and a racial and ethnic perspective?
Your very best employee is as important as your very best client. So, the question is how do you create that attitude where not only do you hire the right people, but you come to rely on them as critical to your growth and you value them in the same way.
The way we tend to look at human capital is there really are three things that we’re trying to be conscious of. First is the nature of the work. Can we be clear on what the type of role it is? Is it an extraordinarily detailed role or is it more of a general role? The nature of work is critical and being conscious of how we define excellence within it.
Once we’re clear on the nature of the work in business, then we can become more direct and more obvious in defining the nature of the worker. What kinds of individuals or what kinds of background or orientation might fit within that job? And that has nothing to do with ethnicity or gender—it has everything to do with the capabilities of the individual. In fact, I’d argue that it doesn’t even have to do with education. Education helps—but that’s not necessarily the definition of success.
The third, which is also critical for small businesses just as it is in large businesses, is to be clear on the nature of the workplace. If you can define the nature of the work, then you can define the nature of the worker. And then you have to think about what kind of environment are you creating in order for both to function at an optimal level.
How can firms better show they value employees?
What typically happens within every firm—but it’s especially noticeable in small firms—is that we tend to forget that the people we hire are no longer new to the business after a few years. They are no longer inexperienced or young or not connected to our clients. All those excuses that we tend to make. There was a great quote that I tend to live by now, by a woman by the name of Jean Harris—who has kind of a checkered history but was a brilliant leader of a school— “The greatest indignity that one person can commit against another is to underestimate them.” And we do this by expecting little of them.
This is where small business owners have to change their mindset from looking at people as a cost to be managed to thinking of them as an asset on which to get a return.
You penned an article, “What Will Become of Us,” where you interviewed Simon Sinek, author of the Infinite Game. Sinek explained that leaders with the infinite mindset realize that the goal is not to beat your opponent, but to stay in the game as long as possible. In terms of our profession, how are you playing the infinite game?
I’m not a technologist, but having a home in Seattle, I’ve always been conscious of Microsoft. I remember meeting Bill Gates when he was just starting out and I had moved to Seattle. When he wisely transitioned leadership to a professional manager because he realized that his greatest impact was on innovation, the person he put in charge tended to think in terms of the competitors and how do we beat the competitors.
The obsession with beating Apple was kind of futile because Apple was only concerned about serving their clients and improving education of students. So one [company] was antagonistic and competitive and the other was focused on creating the ultimate client experience.
When we look at financial services, I think that we have the same challenge. We have many people who tend to denigrate other competitors in the business. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard RIAs speak ill of their brethren on the brokerage side, not recognizing that there are creeps and victors on both sides of the platform. The registration is not what’s significant, it’s the behavior of the individuals. And that throughout financial services, there are those who are deciding to serve people who don’t have any money at all, who are just trying to make planning choices, and those who serve the ultra-wealthy.
Simon Sinek said that we don’t really have competitors—we have worthy opponents. And by their nature, they reveal our weaknesses. And that’s probably true in life too, isn’t it? When we think of individuals who can make us stronger or make us better or expose weaknesses, the question is, what are we going to do with that? Rather than, why are we going to be defensive about it? And that becomes our opportunity to think about what this business will become.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are important to companies in a bull market. Unfortunately, when a bear market comes, DEI programs get slashed, underfunded or unfunded. Can you share what BNY Advisor Solutions will do with your DEI initiatives when we hit the inevitable bear market?
Diversity and inclusion is fundamental to our beliefs.
As a company, you have to take a longer view about people being critical to your future success. If you have the attitude that human capital is as important as financial capital, then you just have to recognize that diversity and inclusion is one of the cornerstones of that strategy and commit to it. I’m less concerned about in our company it becoming a casualty of a down market because I think we’ve already experienced enough vibration, and that if that had been an issue, we would’ve dealt with it. At some point, I’m hoping for a transition where diversity and inclusion becomes obsolete as a strategy and it just becomes obvious that when we look at how we’re going to drive success, that having a broader slate of candidates—regardless of their ethnicity or religion or country of origin, or gender even—makes a difference.
Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® professional, is the founder and president of Your Greatest Contribution (YGC), a virtual, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to serving entrepreneurs, first-generation wealth builders and thriving professionals in their late 20s, 30s and 40s. She also hosts 2050 TrailBlazers, a podcast aimed to address the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation.