BNY Mellon’s Pershing Sees Financial Literacy Program as Good for Its Bottom Line

A onetime student in a high school literacy program organized by BNY Mellon’s Pershing now works for the 80-year-old financial services company. According to Michael Partnow, a director at Pershing, the community engagement program is one way his firm can attract new talent to an industry that needs to be looking to the next generation, as well as future clients. In this episode of Mastering Innovation on SiriusXM Channel 132, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School, Partnow and Andrea Madden, director of marketing and communications at Pershing, talk about how a culture of innovation, an openness to all ideas, and top-down support are critical to implementing such a program. Plus, Partnow elaborates on the three strategic benefits this type of community work brings to a large institution.

An excerpt of the interview is transcribed below. Listen to more episodes here.


Andrea Madden (director, marketing and communications, BNY Mellon | Pershing)

Michael Partnow: I recently read a stat that next to one’s health, finances remain the number two fear and concern in the U.S. household. And even in some of those households, financial worry trumps health priorities, which baffles me, but I guess that’s a conversation for another time.

So the way that we got started was 12 years ago an executive at Pershing, a gentleman by the name of Mark Tibergien was looking at the financial literacy challenge and how to become personally involved. While there were pockets of action and success, there was really no organization and that’s really the innovation here, and no real way for an organization to really get involved and make a true impact. What Mark did was, personally he took a grassroots approach and funded a high school financial literacy curriculum at his alma mater in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Mark has since funded that school annually for the past 12 years. So the point there is that Mark began the program, not only talking the talk, but he walked the walk and he continues to fund that program today.

Michael Partnow (director, global strategy and product management enterprise and product consulting, BNY Mellon | Pershing)

And I think that’s one of the largest challenges that we’ve seen. It’s not that folks do not want to help, they don’t care. They do. They really care about this. They simply don’t know how to get started here. And with millions of Americans struggling to secure their financial futures, as they carry too much debt. They save too little for retirement. They have no financial cushion to deal with, all of life’s twists and turns. Underlying this situation, in many cases, there’s that huge multigenerational gap around financial literacy. And it’s really unfortunate because many have just never been taught essential financial concepts to help them manage their money effectively, so that they can achieve their goals and minimize major mistakes.

How we got started with that was, we took Mark’s personal experience and the success of the program. And a few years ago, a number of us really collected resources across the organization, passionate for solving the challenges in a truly organized fashion around this, and thrilled because that team remains intact today.

Saikat Chaudhuri: That’s very exciting. Andrea, how big is this now, this program? What scale are we talking about?

Andrea Madden: Well, it depends on the day and who’s available because it is, as we say, off the side of our desks and we understand that people have priorities at work. So I would say there’s a core group of, between Big Brothers and Big Sisters and this program, about 50 of us, and that’s on location in our offices in Jersey City, New Jersey. And it’s in various different ways. I think this year we made a big commitment by putting financial literacy as one of the core pillars of our foundation, along with workforce development and economic empowerment, so that the commitment is coming from the top down. The executives are all behind this and want to put everyone’s resources essentially for community partnership towards financial literacy.

“We’re seeing a real newfound interest in our field, and we have a real challenge within the financial services industry in attracting that next gen.” – Michael Partnow

Chaudhuri: You mentioned that there is top-down commitment for this, right? And Mike, I want to get your views on this in a minute as well, what is that from? What are the strategic benefits that the bank sees? One is a good cause for society. Is there a strategic benefit that you can see being a large entity too?

Madden: Yes, absolutely. And Mike was completely ready to answer this question, talking about the three real core benefits when you’re looking at it. So I will defer to him because he’s so good at saying it.

Partnow: I would say there are so many benefits that we’ve seen. Let me just highlight a few here. One is the increased employee engagement. Saikat, that’s exactly the point that you were making there, it’s become more than a thing. It’s become a newfound sense of purpose for many, just knowing that they’re doing a greater good. And when we look at studies, there are proven programs like this that organizations that support employees and encourage them to get involved, they do drive better results to the top and the bottom line. And supporting employees and the time that they invest in the schools, and in our cases, contributing to the cause, the results are an increased level of employee engagement and that could not be more true than with the millennial generation. And they really want to join organizations — as I’m watching the students walk by here [on Penn’s campus] — they really want to join organizations that are socially responsible and where they could really have an impact beyond the core of the business.

Secondly, we’re seeing a real newfound interest in our field, and we have a real challenge within the financial services industry in attracting that next gen. Even in your prior segment, you talked about technology and retail and that’s really the hot areas for students to go to. We have an average adviser age of 60 years old and increased consumer demand. And we truly need to address the talent shortage. Well, getting involved in the local schools early on, we’re seeing the benefits, and it’s so rewarding for Andrea and I and the other volunteers whereby we’re seeing those individuals now go off to college and in some cases graduate from college. Real story is that we’ve recently hired a young lady in our Jersey City office who graduated from college recently, and she was in our program not too many years ago at the local high school. And now she’s pursuing her master’s degree. She has a full-time job with us. That could not be more rewarding.

Third, is just that positive impact that we’ll see on the economy. And with the smarter choices younger students are making today surrounding their finances, the more money they’ll potentially have for tomorrow. And what we’re seeing is, that magic formula of increased assets coupled with greater financial acumen, that’s going to lead to a healthier global environment.

About Our Guests

Andrea Madden is director, marketing and communications, at BNY Mellon | Pershing. She oversees segment marketing efforts for Pershing Prime Services, Collateral Funding & Trading and BNY Mellon’s Broker-Dealer Services unit, developing strategy for business development and relationship management support, along with thought leadership program development. Prior to this role, Madden was responsible for relationship management and practice management support for Pershing’s Advisor Solutions segment marketing.

Before joining Pershing in 2008, Madden developed an integrated marketing communications program for the Global Public Finance division of MBIA Insurance Corporation. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Binghamton University.

Michael Partnow is director at BNY Mellon | Pershing, where he leads the Global Strategy and Product Management Enterprise and Product Consulting team. Partnow and his team are responsible for working with Pershing broker-dealer clients. Prior to this role, Partnow was responsible for Pershing’s RIA Complete strategic initiative driving Pershing’s Corporate RIA and hybrid registered advisor offerings.

Partnow’s professional career includes more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry, with management positions in client service, product development/product management, business development, relationship management, marketing, and operations. Partnow earned a bachelor’s of business administration in marketing and management from Baruch College and earned a master of arts degree in education from the University of Phoenix. He has also completed the Securities Industry Institute program, sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Mastering Innovation is live on Thursdays at 4:00 p.m. ET. Listen to more episodes here.