18 June 2019

Pershing INSITE 2019: accelerating digital transformation

By Timothy Welsh

As one of the big four custodians, Pershing Advisor Solutions always attracts a big crowd to their annual Pershing INSITE conference and this year gathered over 2,000 attendees to Phoenix, AZ for three days of industry content, technology demonstrations, and networking.

The Pershing event is unique in that it brings together not just RIAs, but also advisors from independent broker dealers, their executives, as well as other professionals across the asset management industry, along with numerous international representatives

With a clear message of leveraging technology to improve the client experience, Pershing introduced a number of new technology initiatives to streamline wealth management workflows.  Chief among them was the introduction of a new Integration Advisory Council made up of 14 of the tech industry’s leading technology vendors, including the Black Diamond Wealth Platform by SS&C Advent, to collaborate on integration trends and opportunities in the market.

A new certification program was introduced validating that a technology vendor is integrated with Pershing. “There is a lot of jargon out there such as ‘deep integration,’ but what does that really mean?” said Ram Nagappan Chief Information Officer for Pershing. “We want to provide a roadmap and maturity model for technology integration everyone can use, which will be housed in a one-stop integration portal.”

This approach is critical for Pershing, as 1/3 of advisors and firms use Netx360 directly as their core system, while 2/3 of users have some form of integration with 3rd party tools and/or integrations with the proprietary technology they have built themselves. 

Additionally, Pershing also announced new enhancements to its technology consulting through a new “Tech Assessment Tool” from consulting firm ActiFi, which helps advisors navigate the increasingly crowded and complex software market and identify the best tools and platforms for their businesses. 

One popular session was led by Christina Townsend in her new role as head of Advisor Solutions Platform Strategy for Pershing, and featured industry technology gurus Joel Bruckenstein of T3 and Spenser Segal, CEO of ActiFi.  Bruckenstein and Segal were joined by Jennifer Kirksey, Managing Director at Tolleson Wealth Management.  Kirksey’s biggest challenge?  “Identifying what are the best technology tools,” she said and relayed her experience in doing a year-long search for a new portfolio management system, which resulted in her firm selecting Black Diamond.  “We created a team of people from all aspects of the firm, so while it did take longer, everyone bought in and it was a decided success.”

Pershing INSITE is also known for its high-profile keynote speeches and this year featured former Boeing and Ford CEO Alan Mulally.  Mulally entertained the audience with inside stories of how he transformed Ford from an $18 billion loss to profitability and growth simply by getting everyone to work together via his low-key, people first management style which worked miracles and was ultimately critical to the Ford turnaround.

Following Mulally the next morning was a very well received and highly entertaining keynote from famous author and management guru Simon Sinek.  Sinek spoke about some of the learnings from his research for his latest book, “The Infinite Game.” Sinek’s idea is that there is a fundamental difference for outcomes when playing a “winnable game,” e.g. one that has defined rules and a known timeline with a beginning, a middle and an end, such as football or tennis or other sport.

However, for infinite games – ones that have constantly changing rules and no known timelines, there is no way to “win” an infinite game.  Rather, according to Sinek, organizations’ objective should be simply to survive and adapt to stay in the game.  “You can’t ‘win’ business, or a marriage for that matter, or education, or really any of the more important aspects in life,” Sinek says and then points out the problems for organizations that use a finite game mindset and try and apply it to win an infinite game.  “If you do play to win in an infinite game by engaging directly with your competitors, then you get a decline of trust, a slowdown in innovation and ultimately you lose,” he said.  Sinek advocated for a CVO, a “Chief Vision Officer” as a new executive role needed in firms.  “It is so much more important to know that you are going somewhere vs. just trying to make the next quarter.”

The exhibit hall was populated by 140 exhibiting firms, including a large presence from Black Diamond and SS&C Salentica, sketch artists, skee-ball games, virtual golf practice areas, and food-stations which provided a fun atmosphere and contributed to an excellent networking experience.

To learn more about what went on at INSITE, check out the many tweets on the #realinsite hashtag on Twitter.