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Pershing’s new COO sees ‘bull market’ amid changing industry

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Pershing tapped a 35-year company veteran to be COO about seven months after longtime Envestnet executive Lori Hardwick resigned from the position.

The big clearing firm for independent broker-dealers and fourth-largest RIA custodian picked Jim Crowley, its chief relationship officer, for the vacant role. Hardwick, who left after 11 months, has yet to reveal her next move, and Pershing’s executives had shared her duties until Crowley took over last week. Crowley's appointment comes amid a significant evolution among custodial firms in general. The new COO is focused on leveraging his decades of experience to hone Pershing’s competitive edge.

The Jersey City, New Jersey-based firm has seen “tremendous transformation and growth in the advisory business,” Crowley says. Fee-based assets make up 47% of Pershing’s business today, up from less than 10% in 2012, he notes, acknowledging the firm faces a challenging time for the industry.

“The bar now is being raised every day because of the way you want to be served as an individual,” Crowley says. “The experience journey is something that we are very focused on. How can we help our intermediaries create an experience for the consumer that is highly competitive and differentiating? That, for me, and our firm is where a lot of the focus is.”

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Crowley adds that the many recent changes to technology and regulations have created a “bull market for firms and advisors who are nimble and can adapt to the new environment.”

Crowley started at Pershing in 1982 as a corporate trainee, later working in several operational roles for the firm at the New York Stock Exchange and other posts. He eventually took charge of marketing and development for Pershing’s fixed income business.

Crowley has also served since 1988 on the board of trustees for the Securities Industry Institute, a SIFMA executive education program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. From 2007 to 2009, he was chairman of the board.

Pershing CEO Lisa Dolly echoed Crowley’s views on the changing nature of the industry in a statement announcing his appointment.

“We believe the client experience is driving business decisions today, and will into the next generation,” Dolly said. “Jim has been working closely with our clients to understand their needs, and his leadership will help us to continue to deliver solutions that empower our clients and improve the overall experience.”

A Pershing spokesman didn’t immediately respond Tuesday morning to a request to know the firm’s successor for Crowley’s prior position, chief relationship officer.

Efforts to reach Hardwick were not successful. Crowley’s COO predecessor, who had been president of Advisor Services with Envestnet for 16 years and director of RIA services for Nuveen Investments for five, did provide hints about her status on her LinkedIn profile.

She listed herself as a financial services industry advocate and her location as the greater Chicago area. “To be announced soon!” she wrote under her current position.

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