HOLLYWOOD, FLA. -- The biggest challenges advisors face today are efficiency, staffing ... and identity.

That’s the perspective of Mark Tibergien, CEO of Pershing Advisor Services. “I think probably the No. 1 area of angst for advisors running their own firms is the efficiency of their business,” he said Thursday during an interview at the Pershing Insite conference.

In his role at Pershing Advisor Services, Tibergien is focused on helping the RIAs that custody with Pershing expand their own firms. Pershing ranked No. 4 in in Financial Planning’s list of top custodians, published in January -- with 533 advisor firms, and with $106.4 billion in assets. (Tibergien said assets have since grown to $115 billion.).

And a lot of advisory firms need the help, Tibergien said. “Advisors are not struggling with finding new clients, but they’re struggling with how to do their business smarter ... They continue to be pretty inefficient.”


To a certain extent, that’s connected to what Tibergien said is issue No. 2: human capital strategy, which he said is Pershing’s greatest area of concern. “I used to characterize it as a succession planning issue, but I’ve given up on that … The adoption rate of that concept was so bad,” he said, proposing instead a rebranding: “I think I need to rephrase it as ‘people development.”

Whatever the label, staffing is an “area of crisis” for most firms, Tibergien said, which are struggling to recruit the right talent after building their firms around boomer advisors and clients. He encouraged firms to develop a model that both recruits younger advisors and brings in younger clients. “The advisory firm of the future is going to be a true ensemble,” he said. “Solo practitioners are a harder model to sustain.”

One reason to move the recruiting conversation away from succession planning is to focus advisors on firm growth, he said. “It’s more about growing a business than exiting a business -- and it’s more about building it to last, as opposed to building it to sell.”


The third challenge, Tibergien said, centers on an advisor’s positioning in the marketplace. Each firm needs to figure out, “What makes you stand out in glorious Technicolor?” he said. “Without clear positioning, it’s hard to know which part of your business to invest in.”

That’s an issue for Pershing, too, he said, as it carves out its role in the custody space. The firm focuses on the high end, imposing a minimum of $100 million in assets and targeting “growth-oriented” firms who serve “clients with complex lives,” he said. “Typically that’s high net worth or ultrahigh net worth, but it could be expats living in Singapore.”

That upmarket focus has also helped drive Pershing’s new joint offerings with BNY Mellon – both a combined bank/brokerage custody offering and a new private banking program aimed at the RIAs.

In the first few weeks of the dual custody offering, he said, the company was “introduced to 21 situations” that have added almost $1 billion in assets; he added that the new private bank, which focuses on jumbo mortgages and investment credit lines (which Tibergien referred to as “toy loans”) has about $40 million in loans in process.

“Demand is pretty strong,” he said. But the real payoff, he added, is the ability to offer advisors the benefit of Pershing’s BNY Mellon parentage. “What’s really exciting is the synergy.”

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