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Marc Butler

Episode 47: The Business Leader’s Toolkit System for Exceptional Business Leadership, with Marc Butler

Marc Butler is the Chief Operating Officer and a Managing Director for Albridge, an affiliate of Pershing, a BNY Mellon company. Formerly, Marc managed the Business Development Group for iNautix USA, where he oversaw sales, client relationship management and overall Marketing activities. Prior to that, Marc was the general manager of Pershing’s NetExchange® suite of solutions. Marc joined Pershing in 1994 as a client service associate in PC Financial Network. He has previously served on the firm’s Conversion Task Force and the Bank Market Segment team. Marc has been in the financial services industry for more than 20 years and was formerly a member of both the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Internet Roundtable and SIFMA Investor Education Advisory Committee. He was previously the featured technology columnist in Boomer Market Advisor, a monthly magazine targeted at investment professionals.

Marc frequently speaks at industry conferences including the Financial Services Institute and BISA annual conferences. Marc earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Syracuse University and has also completed the Securities Industry Institute® program, sponsored by SIFMA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has also taken graduate classes in the School of Education at Syracuse University and continuing education coursework in Technology and Financial Planning.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The Business Leader’s Toolkit System: a mechanism for putting people first
  • Employees creating a personal business plan for where they want to take their career
  • Mentoring employees that know where they want to go — and those that have no idea
  • The mentoring program that matches the associate up with the right mentor to guide them — even if it’s not a person inside the company
  • A reverse mentoring program where younger, less experienced employees mentor up on things that they’re knowledgeable about (like new technology, for example)
  • Job shadowing: having employees get their feet wet on a new role by shadowing someone in that role
  • Job rotation: rotating people into new roles to keep them interested and engaged and further their development

Ways to contact Marc:


Welcome to System Execution, the strategy and system behind today’s successful companies. Systems can make or break your company. But here, we’ll solve your physical, technological, and psychological systems issues by connecting you with experts that have succeeded in overcoming those challenges in their own business, and providing you the guidelines and tools you need to implement those same strategies for immediate results. Now, here’s your host, Vera Fischer.

Vera: Today’s episode is sponsored by 97 Degrees West, the brand Marketing agency located in Austin, Texas. 97 Degrees West serves regional and national companies in the healthcare, finance, energy, and manufacturing industries. 97 Degrees West believes that an integrated approach to Marketing that involves traditional and digital strategies that fit your customer’s buying journey yield the greatest impact on your bottom line. Go to www.97dwest.com to learn more.

Welcome to System Execution, a podcast devoted to using processes and systems to drive to a better outcome for your business. I’m Vera Fischer, your host. Many of you know that business success relies on systems. Systems can be physical, such as a warehouse or a factory, or technological, think software, while other are psychological systems such as checklist, org charts, or your daily hot list.

My guest today is the chief operator officer and managing director for Albridge, a financial technology, or known as fintech, company. I’m super excited about Marc because in 2013, he was recognized as a top 10 CEO ready leader by Forbes magazine. Formally, before working at Albridge, Marc managed the business development group for iNautix USA, where he oversaw sales, client relationship management, and overall Marketing activities. He’s also been the general manager of Pershing’s NetExchange suite of solutions, and he’s also been in the financial services industry for more than 20 years.

Marc frequently speaks at industry conferences, including the Financial Services Institute, and Bank Insurance Securities Association annual conferences. Marc earned a bachelor of science degree in finance from Syracuse University, and he’s also completed the securities industry institute program. Welcome to System Execution, Marc.

Marc: Vera, thank you for having me, and good morning to you.

More on Marc’s Background

Vera: Marc, it is great to have you on the show. I am so excited about learning about your business leader’s toolkit system. But before we get started, if you don’t mind, my listeners would love to know more about you and your experience.

Marc: Sure. I’ll share a little bit more. I’ve been in the financial technology space, or the fintech space, as most people refer to it today, for, as you mentioned, over 20 years. I’ve had the opportunity to largely work for the same organization, and have proudly been with Pershing for almost 24 years now. I’ve done a number of things there, mostly again related to the fintech space from starting with a upstart online discount brokerage called DLJ Direct, starting our NetExchange platform in the ’90s and running that for a number or years, all the way to today. Being the chief operating officer with Albridge is probably the most exciting role that I’ve had within the organization, ’cause not only to I get to touch clients of the firm, but I get to touch clients within the industry at large.

Albridge is a great story of innovation and startup, and Albridge started about 17 years ago. The goal with Albridge was really to help financial advisors provide to their investors a complete picture of their financial lives, whether that included assets they held in brokerage accounts, insurance, 401Ks, wherever they might hold financial assets or liabilities. Albridge, through the use of technology, was able to make it really easy for financial advisors and registered investment advisors to be able to provide their investors with one view of what was going on in their accounts.

When we fast forward to today, that’s increasingly important as we talk about client experience. We talk about things like big data, and we’ve been talking a lot about how to help advisors enable the next best conversation with their investors. This is important. As you know, Vera, and as all of your listeners know, the financial space is important for people as they plan their lives, their goals, whether they’re trying to send kids to college, whether they’re trying to retire, whether they’re trying to buy a second home. All of these things really contribute to the service that we provide. So what we do matters.

We serve 80,000 financial advisors. We serve over 200 financial institutions, and our platform supports the assets of nearly half of the investing households in the United States. So we feel like we have a really big responsibility in helping advisors and helping investors meet their goals, their life goals, and the goals of their kids and their family. Like I said, I’m really excited to be here today and tell you more about the business leader’s toolkit, and equally excited about the role that I have at Albridge.

The Business Leader’s Toolkit System

Vera: Well, I’m thrilled to have you on this show, and I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on really helping those financial service business leaders. The landscape is absolutely changing and frankly, people are just living longer. So the game is changing just a bit in terms of how long you work and really what you need to do to be financially safe, as you would say, in your old age, I would guess.

Let’s see. Marc, let’s get started on the business leader’s toolkit system, and let’s start off with why you developed this system.

Marc: One of the things that we did at Albridge a couple of years ago, as I mentioned, Albridge was a startup 17 years ago. It in turn got sold a couple of different times to large financial institutions, and the last was Bank of New York Mellon and Pershing, which is where Albridge is today. One of the things that we needed to do a couple years ago was really start to change the culture from a company that has a real entrepreneurial mindset and a mindset of selling … not being in the business for the long term, but really selling the company. We’ve transitioned Albridge from being a startup to one that is a company that’s part of a larger financial services organization, and one that’s in it for the long haul. The most important thing from our standpoint, in order to be in business long term is your people.

We developed, a few years ago, a culture of putting people first, and the business leader’s toolkit was really a mechanism to execute on that. There’s multiple components to it, all the way from what we call personal business plans, which is sort of a road map for an employee, all the way to how do we develop managers, and how do we develop leaders, and so we have a number of pieces of the toolkit in between that we’ve executed on that have proven successful.

Vera: So, Marc, is the business leader’s toolkit available to everyone, or is this really targeted to managers and up, from a business perspective?

Marc: It’s geared toward people who are running business units or to managers, but the consumers of it are really the associates or the employees.

The Components of Marc’s Business Leader’s Toolkit System

Vera: Okay, that makes sense. So, Marc, what are the components within this system?

Marc: Sure. I’ll start with the personal business plan, and many people think of this as a development plan. Classically, it’s been called a development plan. We changed the name from development plan to personal business plan because really, this is about you as the employee or you as the associate. So it’s personal to you, and it’s a business plan in the sense that this is your road map in terms of where you want to take your career, and what are the things that you’re going to do today that are going to affect your career in the future?

At a really basic level, those things could be just gaining more skills. So, I want to gain more skills, I want to become a better public speaker, I want to become a product manager. You may gain those skills in order to get to the next level in your career. Or, it could be the harder end of things. How do I develop my leadership skills? How do I become a better leader? How do I develop executive presence? How do I lead people? The personal business plan is meant to not only document those things and have goals associated with them, but it’s also meant to be a conversation piece. The document is, I would say, part of the solution, but the more important piece of the solution is actually the conversation that happens between the manager and the employee.

But also, what we do, which is a little bit different, is when we review these personal business plans every year, it’s a conversation between the manager and the employee, but also the manager’s manager and all the way up the line. The way we do it within Albridge is that I personally am involved in every one of these conversations once a year to review someone’s personal business plan. Obviously throughout the year, they’re updating it, but it’s important that all the way up to my role, that there’s recognition and understanding of where employees are trying to take their careers.

Vera: What’s the response from those who are on the other end of that tool? Is it empowering? What kind of a response do you typically get?

Marc: The response is great. There’s some people that really know … probably a third of the people really, really know where they want to go in their career, they know exactly what they need to do to get there, and maybe they just need a little bit of help to execute on some of those activities. Maybe the second third of people have a rough idea, but they really need the coaching and the consulting to get a good framework for where they want to go in their career.

Then the last third of the people really need some help, and sometimes these require a couple of conversations, and the conversations are understanding … and this is usually the process I follow, is understanding better what their background is. Where did they go to school, what did they study, what did they do in a past career? Then where are some areas of interest for them? The reaction in all of those instances has been positive and if nothing more, it really shows that we care in the development of our folks. And whether people love their job and they want to keep in the same job for the rest of their career or whether they’re looking to do something different every couple years, this process and the creation of the personal business plan, the review and the conversation that we have once a year is really effective in getting people to where they want to be.

Vera: The next component within your toolkit.

Marc: Sure, is mentoring. One of the things that we created a couple years ago was a pretty extensive mentoring program. Basically, the tact was that anyone who thinks they could benefit from entering, we’re going to allow them to come into the program as long as they’re an employee in good standing. We had a huge, huge response and in the first year, we had roughly a third of our employees raise their hand and say, “I could really benefit from mentoring.”

We structured it in such a way that we gave the mentees and the mentors tools that they could use in order to create an effective relationship, but at the same time, we didn’t make it so restrictive and so prescriptive. So we had a large response, as I mentioned. From there, we went out and sought out mentors that could really serve the needs, and we went through, and we’ve done this every year since. We go through every application to understand exactly what the mentee is looking for, and then we think about whether the mentor or the eventual mentor sits within Albridge or in the larger organization, we think about who might be the best mentor for that associate, and then we try and match them up.

The mentoring program also has a lot of activities, a lot of group activities where people can share, and also we do have … every year elect two coordinators, and those coordinators are really charged with making sure that the mentee, especially the mentee, is getting out of the program what they want to get into it. We’ve also done, more recently, a reverse mentoring program across the organization where we have younger associates or employees mentoring more seasoned professionals and talking to them, in some cases, about trends in technology or talking to them about how do you approach the next generation leaders and employees and so we’ve done that on a much smaller scale, but both of these programs have been very successful.

Vera: That is extremely interesting, that reverse mentoring. I’ve never heard of that.

Marc: Yeah. Again, it’s been … Throughout Albridge, Pershing, and the Bank of New York Mellon, this has been a really, really successful program, and a lot of work put into it. I’m one of the mentees in that program, and I would share that there’s a lot of benefit to that, in getting a view from the younger generations that normally I wouldn’t have.

The Importance of Job Shadowing

Vera: That’s fantastic. All right, let’s move on to component number three.

Marc: Yeah, the next component is job shadowing. This is a relatively new one for us, and the idea simply is employees that might be interested in taking on a different role in the future, or maybe they’ve indicated in their personal business plan, “this is where I want to eventually get to”. There’s no better way to get their feet wet and give them a little experience than have them participate in job shadowing.

We’ve made the program really flexible in the sense that the person that’s doing the job shadowing really defines how involved or the experience they want to have. It could be everything from observation, where maybe they’re sitting with someone once a month and they’re looking at exactly what they do, and that person is explaining, “This is what I do, this is the job.” All the way to, “Hey, I’m ready to take on a small assignment. Give me a small assignment so I really understand what this job and what this role is about.”

We’ve had a number of folks go through this program. We run different iterations of it over a six to nine month period. There’s no better way for an employee to get a sense of, “Well, this is what the role is all about, and I’m still really interested in gravitating to this role in my career.” Or, “You know what, this role isn’t exactly what I thought it would be.” But in any event, it’s a really good learning opportunity. It helps to connect the dots throughout the organization. It gives the people that are in the job, it gives them an opportunity to knowledge share in ways that they hadn’t been able to in the past.

Vera: Marc, does this job shadowing … you said it happens once a month. Is it for a few hours, or is it half a day, all day?

Marc: It’s really defined between the participant and the person that they might be shadowing. It could be once a month for an hour. It could be once a week for a half hour. We’ve really allowed the flexibility of people to define what they want it to be. As I mentioned, it could be more observational. “Hey, I want to watch what you do. Explain to me what you’re doing.” Or, it could be somebody taking on a really small assignment so that they can truly get the flavor of what that job and that role is all about.

Vera: And, Marc, does the person who is doing the shadowing choose who they’d like to shadow? Is there a symbiotic relationship there, or are they assigned?

Marc: They’re typically assigned, and the reason that we recommended that is just because the people that are doing the teaching, the people that are in the role that are showing the job shadowing participant what they do, some people are better teachers than others. And so we wanted to have the participants get matched up with people that we thought were really good teachers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be the leader of the group. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be the manager. But we were looking for people that could knowledge share and that could teach effectively.

Vera: Makes sense. Let’s move on to the next component.

Marc: The next component is job rotation. We’ve done this across the organization, where Pershing has had a extensive job shadowing program over the last few years. At a more local level within Albridge, we’ve also done the same. This is where folks want to try something different. We’re able to swap people into roles that they’re interested in and where we have a business need, and that we think the person could be successful.

For instance, somebody who is in more of an operations role and wants to move into a product management role, we may move them into that role in order to further their skills and, really getting back to the personal business plan, get them aligned with where they’re trying to go in their career. In a lot of cases, these moves are lateral, but the goal is to really broaden the expertise, because the reality is that we need people with a broad set of experiences and a broad set of roles where they’ve been accomplished and they’ve had success, and so this is a really good way of doing that.

The truth is, from an employee standpoint, most of the employees that we interact with, they want to do different things. They want to try different things. Lots of successful companies, regardless of industry, have formal job rotation and job spot programs that have been successful. It’s been shown to be a great way to develop and engage employees.

Vera: I would imagine it does, that rotation, it really gives them a flavor and it keeps them interested and engaged, as well.

Marc: That’s exactly right.

How to Help Management Become More Effective

Vera: Yeah. What’s the next component?

Marc: The next component is really focusing on managers and having managers be more effective. One of the things that employees have asked for is greater engagement with their managers. We’ve made skip level meetings mandatory for all managers. You might be, as a manager, meeting with your direct reports, but we also want you to meet with the next level down. That would be the skip level. We’ve made this a performance goal for people within Albridge, and again, this is something that the employees had asked for in terms of engagement and in terms of developing and furthering their careers.

These conversations happen. Typically, they’re a half hour to an hour. Sometimes they’re once every couple weeks, sometimes they’re once a month, but managers, like I said, are required to conduct the skip level meetings. It gives an opportunity to those employees that are in the meeting to talk about really anything that they might want to talk about. I know when I do the skip levels, it’s their meeting, it’s not my meeting. They may want to talk to me about projects they’re working on, or ideas they have for how we can innovate on new solutions. They may want to talk about their career. They may want to talk about things in the industry. There’s a lot of flexibility in terms of how the skip levels get conducted, but we’ve stressed the importance of those skip levels actually happening.

Vera: You know, Marc, in my experience, and I’m sure this is with some of our listeners today, employees, associates, whatever you call them in your organization, they assume that everybody knows what they’re working on. Everybody knows what they’re doing. And that, your skip level meetings really give the manager an opportunity to understand what other people are working on and get insight into that. Would you agree with that?

Marc: Absolutely. Absolutely. I know I benefit probably even more than the employees in the skip level, just ’cause I can learn things that are going on that I’m not in touch with on a day to day or week to week basis. It gives me different perspectives. I might have one perspective, but what I’m hearing from someone who’s actually in the project or in the effort and really doing a lot of the heavy lifting, it’s really beneficial for me as a leader to hear those perspectives.

Vera: Excellent. And, Marc, what’s our next component?

Marc: I’ll talk just a little about manager development programs. We have looked at ways in which we can develop our managers, and like most organizations, we have some really experienced managers. We have some managers that are less experienced, and so how do we create programs for those managers and almost, in a sense, customize it to their needs? So when you have managers who have a lot of experience, they might think they know everything about managing, but the reality is that managing people changes. There’s dramatic shifts, I would say, every three to five years in how you manage people and how industry next practices on how people get managed. Then you have newer managers that just need core skills on how to handle difficult conversations, how to develop and employee, how to handle problems when they come up.

So, whether it’s been internal classes that we have across Bank of New York Mellon, there’s a number of online classes that we make available through a university that was created a couple years ago, all the way up to external classes that may be available for people to take. We’ve also had people come on site to do classes for managers as well. Developing managers is really important. Employees are growing. They want to grow. They want to have growth. The managers need to be there and be in a role where they can help the employee in that regard.

Using Internal Recognition Programs to Recognize Employees

Vera: Excellent. And our next component?

Marc: The next component is really talking about recognition programs. A big part of what we do and what we do really across the firm is how do we recognize people, and do we have things available to us to be able to recognize people? One of the things we have across the organization is we have what’s called a wow portal. If somebody wows you in something that they do, whether they’re an employee of yours, a peer, someone that you just happened to work with on a project, you can go into the wow portal and in a matter of 30, 45 seconds, you can recognize that person. It may be as simple as just saying thank you, or it might be somebody who’s put in a huge effort over a long period of time, you’re recognizing them at the highest level. They can actually get points for that, and then those points can be redeemed into merchandise, gift cards, lots of different things. The wow portal, across all of Bank of New York Mellon, has been very successful. We’re pretty frequent users of it within Albridge.

We’ve done some things more locally that have been effective. For instance, we have a quarterly executive lunch where employees get recognized by the senior management team, and then myself and a couple of other senior leaders take those employees out to lunch. We spend a couple of hours really not talking about work. We really talk about our next vacation, we’ll talk about our kids, we talk about what’s going on out in the industry, and it’s just a really good opportunity for the employees that have been recognized to spend some time with us, and it’s great for us to be able to have that kind of dialogue.

We also do, in terms of recognition, we have a number of awards at our annual holiday party, from manager of the year to the keys to success, where we’re recognizing the efforts of … in the case of manager of the year, we’re recognizing the efforts of managers that have done a great job, and those managers are voted, or the submissions come from actually the employees or peers of that manager, and then there’s a committee that we have that actually selects the Albridge manager of the year. Then that Albridge manager of the year gets submitted for the Pershing manager of the year award. Managers want to strive to get better, and this is a great way to recognize those managers in what’s I consider a very hard job.

Then another award which I mentioned was the key to success award. This is recognizing two people, one from our business and one from our technology group, who have really been instrumental in helping us to meet our goals over the last year. Again, this is something we do at our end of year holiday party, but it’s focused on two people who have really gone above and beyond, and have shown a lot of guts in terms of helping us take the organization to the next level.

These recognition programs are really important and at the end of the day, when you put all of these pieces together in the business leader’s toolkit, it’s really driving towards putting people first, developing people, getting them to where they want to be in their career, recognizing people for their efforts, and really facilitating and putting forth what we want to be, which is a great place to work.

Vera: And Marc, with these seven components within your toolkit, was this something that were … obviously were built individually, but were the pieces and parts already there? Is this a collaborative effort with the senior management team? I’m just curious how it all came to be.

Marc: Yeah, this is really collaborative across our senior management team. There’s templates for each one of these things. For instance, our mentoring program. If another part of Bank of New York Mellon wants to establish a mentoring program, we have a template and a lot of lessons learned where literally, they can take our template and start a program and be successful within the first year.

Same thing with job shadowing, job swap and rotation, the manager development programs, the recognition programs. All of these things were a collaboration of the senior management team within Albridge, and we develop them in such a way that other business leaders in the organization or even outside of the organization can benefit.

How Marc Educates People on His Business Leader’s Toolkit System

Vera: And how do you educate everyone who’s applying it or in charge of a certain aspect of it? How do they get educated on the proper way to implement the tools?

Marc: We usually sit down with them, so we have different senior managers that are the executive sponsors of some of these programs. We have those senior leaders work with whoever the main contacts might be, or the participants might be to educate them on what the program’s all about, what they should expect to get out of it, what they’re going to have to put into it. There’s a lot of communication and a lot of knowledge share.

Some of these programs, for instance, the mentoring one, has become so well established over the last couple of years that there really isn’t a lot of instruction needed, necessarily. People kind of know what’s involved because they’ve been in it either as a mentee, a mentor, an executive sponsor, or maybe all three of those.

Vera: Interesting. It’s always a great way to learn is through other people’s bumps in the road, so do you have any insight into areas that you’ve learned, where you’ve had to maybe tweak one of the tools within the toolkit?

Marc: I think the manager development programs are something that we’re always looking at based on the changing needs of managers and more importantly, the changing needs of the employees that they serve. That’s one that, as you know, Vera, there’s tons of programs out in the industry in terms of management development, so we’re constantly fine-tuning and figuring out what are the best programs, how do we get people to them, how do we budget for them. That one is one that we’re constantly reviewing the next steps and what do we have to do.

Next Challenges for Marc and His Team

Vera: Well, Marc, the information that you’ve shared with us around your business leadership toolkit system, which is really comprised of seven components, has been extremely educational. You’ve given us a great set of takeaways, and to wrap up our discussion today, let’s talk about what your next challenge is.

Marc: The next challenge is really how do you take a lot of these things to the next level? The one area we’re going to be focusing a lot more in within Albridge between now and the end of this year is specifically in the job rotation and job swap area. We’ve dabbled in this with a few employees, and we’ve had some really good success. The next step would be to get more employees involved with it. We have plans to be able to get a lot more employees involved in it, and the goal and the next step, if you will, in that piece of the toolkit is how do we make this where every two to three years, people are able to get involved in different opportunities in different roles, if that’s directionally where they want to go in their careers. So it becomes a little bit more, I don’t want to say automatic, but it’s just part of our routine, kind of like the mentoring program is really part of our routine today. We want to get the swap and rotation program to be similar to that.

Then the second piece I would say is continuing manager development. Part of that is taking managers through 360s. Part of that is looking at courses externally. What we’ve done in a couple cases, if something looks interesting, we’ll send one or two managers to a course and then figure out is that something that we want to send more people to going forward? In terms of taking it to the next step, that’s where we want to go and some of the things that we’re looking to do.

Final Advice from Marc

Vera: And, Marc, you’ve shown us that processes are needed to get the work done and have provided a few of the nuances that our listeners need to hear regarding the execution of a successful system. Before we go, let’s close out today’s discussion with any final advice you want to share, anything we’ve missed, and then tell us the best way we can connect with you.

Marc: Yeah, I think the advice that I would share is just that if anyone has any questions, if any of your listeners have any questions or are interested, or maybe have some experiences of their own in some of these areas, I’d love to connect with them through LinkedIn. They can feel free to contact me at MButler@Albridge.com as well. I would just add that putting people first is not just a slogan. It really means something, and employees want to be engaged in having the tools in place and having the systems in place to do that more effectively is really important if you’re going to have and grow a successful company.

Vera: Well, System Execution fans, no matter how many notes you took or how often you re-listen to this episode, remember; every successful business uses systems to drive to a better outcome. Marc, it’s been great to have you on the show, and thank you for sharing your insight with our System Execution fans.

Marc: Vera, thank you very much, I appreciate it. Have a great day.

We hope you found this episode of System Execution enlightening. For free examples, case studies, e-books, and more, be sure to visit systemexecution.com/resources. Contribute to the conversation by reaching out to Vera directly on email at Vera@SystemExecution.com. Until our next episode, thank you for the privilege of your time.




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