Top Program Managers: Old dogs, new tricks

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Apparently, you can teach old dogs new tricks. Our annual list of Top Program Managers is a case study of industry veterans thriving in a new world.

Indeed, as you look through our ranking, there are two salient points to take away.

First, the average tenure in the industry for our top 30 managers is 24 years. Second, they almost all talked about technology in their nomination forms. The combination of those two insights underscores the resiliency of this group. Or, more to the point, the necessity of being able to adapt if you want to stay at the top of your industry.

After all, in the formative years in their careers, nobody was talking about online banking or access to instant data. That wasn’t the way the world was then, and it would have been very easy for these managers to cling to their old ways, as many of their colleagues surely did.

Another common theme that emerged in the nomination process was the decline of foot traffic in the branches (which they also didn’t talk about 25 years ago.) And even with that challenge, the solutions often involved new uses of technology to get in front of clients and prospects.

Other major issues were the importance of hiring and – once that’s done correctly – managing with a light hand. A number of our winners talked about “getting out of the way” of the advisors.

Then, of course, there was the issue that separates the bank channel from advisors in wirehouses and RIAs: working with the bank partners. Even in the best of times, the idea of bank brokerage is a difficult mix. One side is driven by numbers; the other is defined by trust and relationships. And the program manager can find themselves inhabiting the ground between banks and their investment programs.

To be sure, everyone has internal colleagues to get along with, but forming those relationships (and running interference when necessary) is always top of mind for the top bank program managers.

By now, you’ve probably seen the slideshows and you’re wondering how the program managers were ranked.

To make the list, we use multiple metrics to get a more well-rounded view of managers in the bank channel. Typical measures of size were used, such as the number of advisors on their team, AUM and production. But other metrics were also used, such as percentage changes in AUM and production, as well as production-per- advisor. Those variables were combined into one composite score to determine the ranking. (We rounded numbers for display in the slideshow, but all of our calculations used the full numbers submitted, before rounding.)

Check back later this week for other installments of the list, as well as other articles. And we extend a hearty congratulations to all of our winners.

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