Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Welcome to WealthTech on Deck. Thanks for joining us. Each week I have the privilege of speaking with industry leaders around issues that inform in advance financial advice, wealth and asset management, retirement insurance and annuities and technology. I talk with industry leaders who are working on ways to help advisors, clients, participants and firms enjoy better financial outcomes all around the confluence of digital and human advice. Most of our conversations centered around what’s new and exciting today and where the industry is taking us. Today we are speaking with someone who is at the center of it all. Craig Pfeiffer is the president of the MMI, the Money Management Institute. Craig, welcome. Thanks for joining us on WealthTech on Deck.
Craig Pfeiffer: Thank you, Jack, look forward to visiting with you as always.
Jack Sharry: So I’ve been active and involved in the MMI for decades, actually, at this point, it’s a very important organization for our business and its impact continues to grow. Craig, let’s start with you telling our audience about the MMI today at a high level and about the role you play.
Craig Pfeiffer: Yes, so thank you, Jack in this exciting time. So actually, literally this week, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the formation of MMI. So timing couldn’t be more important and relevant, if you will. And as I’ve said before, it’s been a very long but a very fast journey to get MMI to where it is it started off being a discussion of a couple pioneers and Trump and Oriole innovators disruptors in our business building the SMA account, the separately managed account, we all know how that has evolved dramatically. But it was finding a way that the few people that were doing that needed to share ideas, share best practices and start to think about how to scale and that’s what drew others. And so we MMI today has over 200 members, members are asset managers of all sizes, wealth managers of all sizes, as well as what we call solutions providers. And they’re the people that make up the ecosystem, the plumbing and wiring in the interchanging the interactivity and interconnectivity of everybody in the industry, of our asset managers about two thirds of the membership, that is an elephants in our buddies game or no offense in rabbits game. So we have everybody who has a trillion or more in the asset space, but two thirds of our managers have less than 25 billion. And so they are all those different dimensions. And it’s a great way to create that sharing in the wealth managers. It’s the firm’s that you would know, by their recognition and the Merrill Lynch’s and the Morgan Stanley’s and UBS and Raymond James and Ameriprise, and all the way through Wells Fargo, etc. But also a number of the IRAs and the IRA aggregations that have come about the independent firms and the advisor groups of the world, as well as some of the main channel platforms. So we have, you know, every constituency represented, if you will, I think the most important thing about the MMI is why it was formed. And that was for people to get together with other people about the business. And that still stands today.
Jack Sharry: Terrific. You’re gonna You’re always looking for ways to help member firms of which our firm is one looking for ways for them to advance please share with our audience some of the projects and programs you’re working on now.
Craig Pfeiffer: Yeah, there’s a couple of them. One you’re very dear and at the center of Jack and the next chapter initiatives. So thank you for bringing that up. But it’s something that’s really dear to myself and our leadership, is we’ve crossed that threshold in retirement, we’ve been talking about retirement forever. We’ve been talking about retirement planning, we’ve been talking about baby boomers, we’ve been talking about 10,000 people turning age 65, a day that has passed, we’re over the tipping point, those so-called baby boomers born in that birth era of 46 to 64. Those individuals more than half of them are over age 65. Now it’s about retirement living and forget their market activity in the last number of weeks. For the last number of years, there has been challenges around dealing with the accumulated wealth and retirement assets, sourcing and deriving not only the income but doing so smartly around taxes around risk around location, etc. And so the next chapter mostly led by Steve Gresham, and the execution project partnership with MMI few industry leaders yourself, Cheryl Nash, if you will, from invest cloud and some of the other leaders inside MMI and partnering with FA magazine, around delivering out the many facets around Retirement Living, if you will, in a couple of weeks, May 24th-25th. We have our Rockin Retirement virtual conference that will be number two falling masters great success. And you know one of the things about these virtual conferences, you’re able to get access to talent, speakers and content that you they would never get on an airplane and fly half a day to Charlotte or Dallas just to speak to your crowd for a half hour and fly back. But don’t give your time on video conference. So we really have an unbelievable lineup of credits. It’s also connectivity to the what we call the next generation of the industry. Our leadership pathway population insight mm The people that will become the MMI leaders five and 10 years from now, we have six work streams across this read the dimensions of the retirement, they working with industry, veterans are paired up, and really driving the development of content, thought leadership, and then delivering it back. So, next chapter is a big deal for us. Second one is diversity, equity and inclusion. Listen, I’m the first to tell you, we’ve been talking about this forever. This is a problem and issue, the underrepresented has been on the table forever. A couple of years ago, as to George Floyd and many other incidents really got it to the forefront, our board really gelled around this, we’ve been talking, we’ve got to start walking, we have a seat at the table, we actually got to set the table. And I give a great deal of credit to Troy Sordin, who absolutely was in the center of that dialogue, but was able to lead us through an incredible period of frankly, uncomfortable dialogue, uncomfortable conversations. But making everybody feel constructive and uniqueness forward. We did two things. One, we gathered one representative from every firm called the Social Justice Advisory Council. These are not individuals that are in HR, these are not individuals who work into diversity efforts. These are people of color black and brown people to come to work in a member firm every day. And they work in the strategy department. They work in finance, they work in accounting, they work in legal, wherever they work, they come in that context, we needed to have that perspective, we didn’t need the HR perspective, we had access to that. And that has just been incredible the insights they have given us and things that are issues, ground issues that would need to be addressed. That’s been a real big plus. And then we started three strategic campaigns where MMI in the membership is actually giving back. And that give back is around financial literacy around career awareness and entry level for individuals coming from university. And then certainly mid-career professionals, which is the big problem, Jack, we’ve got this population of entry level coming in, but they don’t see people like them five and 10 years ahead in the industry. And we know that that’s underrepresented. There are a few who keep stealing them from each other. We have got to go outside our industry and find people of color and bring them in the middle level jobs and so that that fill out that sophomore junior class. So the freshmen have an aspiration.
Jack Sharry: So Craig great to hear about next chapter. I’m very excited about it. I’m not sure when this particular podcast will play, but it will play potentially afterwards. And I want to tell you, we had a great conference. All kidding aside, we don’t know what that turned out to be. But I do know, we have a great roster of speakers. We’ve got Rob Kapito as the president of Blackrock. We’ve got Jed Finn, who’s the Chief Operating Officer of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Jenny Johnson and Jasmine Jirele, who are CEOs of Franklin Templeton and Allianz life, respectively. All Star Cast Mohamed El Erian speaking so we got Bert white, who’s longtime at LPL. Now with the Carson Group’s a great lineup of speakers. Also talking about some people that have been active over the years, their firms, at least in the MMI, Rose Palazzo who was at Morgan Stanley now invest that gut invest that money guide, Ainslie Simmons who is running Pershing X president of Pershing X and new upstart which is doing exciting things. And Michael leer, she was head of advice and planning at Wells Fargo. So very exciting lineup of speakers and many more that I did not touch on. So kudos, their great work also on what you’re doing around DIJ. I’m all in on that enough talk, we gotta make it happen. And so glad you’re doing that. And I know you always have a lot going on. So at least five more projects, when he fills in on one or two more.
Craig Pfeiffer: The other one I would draw about is this is a people business. It’s always been about the people, we can do things with the machines, and the machines can do things for us. But it’s about the people business and talent and human capital. And all those references have really come to the forefront. And a lot of it came to do with just the secular change or break because of the pandemic. And I’ll talk about that a little later. But the talent issues, you hear the word upskilling. And Jack, the upskilling is for you and I it’s for everybody, right there was always this retraining element about as the world evolved, and as jobs changed, and as roles change, that you had to be trained for another one. And so that was a form of retraining. That’s not what upskilling is. Upskilling there’s you got to catch up with what’s going on and happening fast around data around innovation around application around interconnectivity and all those pieces. So we’re gonna spend a lot of time working on that. And the funny part of all this is there’s demand, we used to come out with training programs and try and make people go, people are actually begging for opportunities to learn more and become better around emotional intelligence around organizational leadership around different interactions with types of people and types of technology. So people are begging for the classes and they’re looking to employers saying, Are you going to help me up my skills? Or should I be thinking about somewhere else? And our leaders in industry are saying, Wow, I got a retention risk if I don’t specify more money on training, and the people are already sitting in the classroom. I don’t have to beg them to come. I think that’s fascinating. We found a new pocket of individuals who are 15 to 25 years in the industry. We’re begging for that. And so we created a partnership that’s really exciting. And it’s kind of fun for MMI. To play with the big kids. We have a partnership with Microsoft, we have a partnership with PwC, and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, their executive ed program, that is all around tomorrow, around leading people differently, and around different issues, mostly around Trump or Nouriel mindsets and innovation. And you layer in that data and all the other pieces that come along, and what great partners with Microsoft at PwC, and what they bring to the table, and we’re bringing the industry, and we’re putting them in the classroom with the University of Virginia, both in person a couple times a year, as well as virtually on a regular basis. So really the upscaling and the talent management, I think is as exciting as it’s ever been.
Jack Sharry: That’s great. That’s some of the stuff you’re working on. Now, I know you’ve always been an innovative thinker, and always looking out for what’s next. As you look out over the next three to five years, where do you see the industry going? It’s seems to be exciting time. So I’d love to hear what you have to say about that.
Craig Pfeiffer: It is exciting times at least I think so. But here’s what I would tell you, Jack might be bad news, I expect the change to be bigger than it has been. And faster than it has been. And everybody’s already kind of half gasping for air. But it is exciting, because I think we’re gonna go from an era, you know, we invent things, and then we use them. And then we adapt them and come to a next generation and use them. I think we’re in a major phase of not necessarily new innovation of core or structural technology, but applications. And what I hear people talking about is taking this application and putting it within another application or taking these two applications and being applying it differently. And so there’s an exponential benefit that comes from that. And, you know, I think of the things you talk about and how we think about how the clients have accumulated assets and haven’t located in different places, but they, they got to think about the tax consequences of drawdown, they have to think about the risk issues of portfolio management, they have to think about the many inputs of advice, the consolidation of tools, and then using that within artificial intelligence way of looking towards tomorrow, and actually going from not preparation. But anticipation.
Jack Sharry: I just think it’s very exciting to watch technology applications within a name that has been used for what you just described as, frankly, an old entire term that I’m going to officially bury right now. It’s called the Unified Managed Household. Reason I’m bearing it as the term was invented probably 2530 years ago. And the industry is not fulfilled. But I’m curious about your thoughts on this. My observation, as I read the daily News Feed around what’s going around our industry. You see, so many of the major firms making announcements about they’re willing to spend billions of dollars on something I’m calling comprehensive advice platforms. In other words, putting it all together, around it sounds like what you just described, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Putting it all together using AI using machine learning using various products that we’ve known for so long, but going well beyond them towards solutions, and then connecting them around issues of cost risk tax, and just the flow of information so that the next best action, the next best thing to do becomes evident just like we experienced every day when we shop online or do anything online. But our industry seems poised for that. But I’m curious your thoughts on where you see that going?
Craig Pfeiffer: I think it’s going right down that road right down the street part of a jack and I’ll tell you at the end about some of the things I think he can take away from this conversation. But there is a piece of this, that is what I call C to B, we’ve forever have talked about b2b business to business or b2c business to consumer, what you just described is C to B consumer to business. If you don’t give me this, somebody else will I’m sure I’ll go there. And so all this is this much about playing defense is taking all these diverse, separate component parts, and making people jump through hoops in different places. And when they’re saying ruin my life, I can do a whole lot of other things in seamless work through straight through processing, seamless work processes. Why can’t you guys in financial services and wealth management do that? Why do you make me do this? And then do that? And then make me do it in a different way? Why can’t it be in one place? And I think that is the grand capitulation of all this work? Are those people that are able to stitch it together into your comprehensive view, as you described?
Jack Sharry: Yeah, as I see it, I’m assuming you will agree. Essentially, technology has caught up to the fact that it can provide this there are always issues of regulation and compliance. What have you that firms are dealing with that in other words addressing that, because ultimately, it’s about what does the consumer want need and before we hid behind the fact that we didn’t want to miss inform consumers while they’re just used to getting the next best suggestion and compliance not be damned, but frankly, let’s adjust the rules such that we can give people what they want, which is a better outcome. So your thoughts on all that?
Craig Pfeiffer: Yeah, listen, I’ve maintained for a long time to regulatory environmental compliance environment has had it backwards. We’ve had it backwards because we spent all this time around enforcement. And we’ve been trying to legislate good. And we would just get back to what is good define it, and then hold people accountable to it. This whole beware of we can’t do that because it might not work. We can’t tell people this because it may not work. Listen, I just went through an unbelievable medical ballot, they had no idea what’s going to happen. They tried to little this, they tried a little bit of that, and it worked. But there were a lot of moments it didn’t. And so if good people were trying to use good brains in a very smart way, and making good judgments, then that’s where we should be thinking about taking good care of the clients. And as long time argued that I respect the laws, and we ought to be very strict to the laws, but we should use them for enforcement of wrong, not trying to legislate.
Jack Sharry: Perfect, couldn’t agree more. So what else do you have on your list of things that we should be looking out over the next few years.
Craig Pfeiffer: You know, pay attention, really pay attention. And there’s some examples. The one example I love to other people, is you remember Jack, it had happened probably within 10 years in my life had happened somewhere between sixth grade and finishing college, it wasn’t very long period of time. But we went from the vinyl record, to the cassette tape to the CD, then to the eight track where some order along that and then to the mp3 player to the cloud. That all happened in 789 10 years. Wow. Right? All right. So now go back. We thought the robo was a big thing. Five years ago, it was the cassette player to the eight track. Yeah. So you think about the unified managed household and varying that name and everything else transformational as the industry goes on, pay attention to what’s going on, because there is somebody next door, working on getting the step ahead. And I think that’s just a real observation. And within that, and within my other comment around applications within applications, I’m pretty excited about strategic partnerships I hear about every day, you can’t believe who’s talking to who about doing business together. And it is fascinating. And there are people that you thought they would never go to the same way, they would never be seen anywhere together. And they’re now putting partnerships together. And I think that’s good for the industry as opposed to everybody trying to fight doing it on their own. Let’s get together and do it right. And there’s some scale or leverage pieces that are coming, that are really good for the business, but because they’re good, but I mean, good for the business, you’re good for the investors. And that’s the last piece that we’ll talk about is access to the industry. Wealth tiers, we’ve always talked at the top of the pyramid, there was 70% of the people had assets that were below our ability to serve, we now have the ability to serve all assets with a technology tool.
Jack Sharry: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And I find it to be very exciting. And really the enabler here is technology, as you put all this together, that makes all this available. And as we’ve come to expect in terms of our own experience, whether it’s Google or Amazon or Apple or whatever, just it’s so easy to do business, our business historically, I’d love for you to comment on this, frankly, has been challenging. Chalk it up to compliance, chalk it up to just hidebound systems and mergers and acquisitions that didn’t quite mesh. All that seems to be starting to break down that the acceleration and I agree with your earlier comment along these lines, that seems to be accelerating, whether it’s big firms from different industries coming together, or it’s working with the advisor wasn’t too long ago that advisors were concerned that somehow they were going to be replaced by technology. I think they are enabled by technology. I think they can do a better job with all this. But I’d love to hear your comments on this accelerating momentum, largely driven by demographics. And by technology.
Craig Pfeiffer: I think that there’s an energy level, I think before it was so overwhelming that people were de energized. They were spending a whole lot of time around strategic thinking strategic planning. And there’s this old saying I don’t have it exactly right, Jack. But the pursuit of perfect, right, there was so much strategic planning going on. And a whole many people doing a whole bunch of research about a whole bunch of ideas, and time flew by. And I think finally, you know, we went through that period of six sigma, and then we went through the period of agile, and you know, you’ve gone through all those phases. Now I think people are getting down to work. And I think people are afraid that clocks going too fast. And they’re, they got to get it done. And so the patience and the tolerance level for delay is pretty nominal. And it starts at the top of every one of the firm’s and it just cascades down through is we gotta get this and get it now.
Jack Sharry: So one of the things that I find fascinating having been around MMI, since near the beginning of it wasn’t quite there at the dawning, although I know hundreds of people that were okay inside there are many that have laid claim, as you know, to being at the dawning. But what I’ve admired, observed participated benefited from is the MMI has always been at the forefront of what’s next. And I’d love to have you comment about that maybe a little kind of a brief history. You don’t have to go through all the detail way back when but at every step of the way, you’re always one step ahead of what’s next and sort of teeing up the industry. Do enjoy further success. I’d love to get your perspective going back in time, and then with more emphasis on what’s happening now,
Craig Pfeiffer: I will do that it’s a fun story to tell I say it a little bit tongue in cheek and a little bit smart aleck and a little bit revisionist, but it paints the picture real clearly, I’ve met and spent great time, all 12 of the five founders. And so all 12 of them. They were all there and they know who sat to their left. And the second thing is this district, when you talk about it being at the forefront, it’s just in the DNA it stretched what the type of people that have been drawn to MMI there was a population of individuals tall, two decades more three decades proudly ago it when they were coming up with this whole idea of the SMA, and all the SMA was your sleeve inside the open end mutual fund. And they were going to give you your allocation of that. And then they were going to do it in a fancy and feel special in your own shoe box kind of way. And all the participants, the wealth managers and the advisors delivering it, the clients and the people manufacturing were the asset managers were the same people in the open-end mutual fund business, and they were all members of the ici, and they would all go to the ICI pilgrimages. And when they got there, they would talk about the grand open mutual fund, open end mutual fund. And they simply listen, we’re working on this new thing called the SMA. And they say get out of here, kid that’s Baloney, that’s not going to go anywhere. And so they frankly, they said, Well, yes, it is we’re going to make it go. So we’ll start our own club. And that was the start of the MMI. And it was all that used to go to ICI meanings and talk about the severally managed account. Now I went to the MMI and talk to other separately managed account people, and it exploded into the advisory business in every possible dimension that you will know. So that’s really how it came to be. And it also came to be as less help each other. There weren’t regulatory issues at that time, which is where the ICI was very centered, there was a lot of legislative issues. Over in the insurance space, there was all kinds of regulatory formations. And so that’s how trade associations get together to band around an issue against an opponent, there was no opponent to the SMA business other than lack of awareness. And so that’s where the other real culture trait of MMI is, I call it the guns down environment. You can’t come to an MMA event without putting your gun down. You’re coming to share best practices, you’re coming to share ideas, you’re coming to learn. And people have had that structural fiber that allows people to really enjoy it. And so we use a large marker is MMI is about content and collegiality. And this guns down piece goes all the way back to those roots of how can we help each other and that’s pretty special.
Jack Sharry: Yeah, I’ve frankly, benefited greatly over the course of my career, I’ve been involved with them, oh, my not quite the full 25 years because and every meeting and every webinar conference call what have you I’ve learned something for those that are not involved with MMI that have anything to do with this business. And I’m assuming if you’re listening, you do, what a great place to meet like-minded folks who are trying to break new ground to do things better. And frankly, my best ideas are well stolen. And I’m told by colleagues and friends of mine in the business, they stole a few of mine as well. But it all wins makes the industry better. So kudos to MMI. And Craig, to you for your leadership. It’s really been, it’s been a wonderful organization to be a part of and continue to be a part of.
Craig Pfeiffer: Yeah, thank you. And it’s fun. And you know, people were very generous with their compliments around success. But back to my earlier comment, it’s still the people with the people and it took all kinds of people. You know, one of the things people have to understand the MMI is a volunteer organization. We have dues that’s for our economic structure, but it’s a volunteer organization. And we’re going to name a new chair Keith Glenfield, from Bank of America, Troy Thorton is ending his term for Goldman Sachs, four years that they give by being an officer in MMI. And it goes through, but that means it turns every single year, we have term limits on our board, we have 40 firms on our board. But of those 40 firms, 20 of them are new in the last five years. So fresh voices, fresh eyes, fresh legs, and frankly, the MMI. When you take the team photo, it looks different. We’ve got color in that photo, and we’ve got gender in that photo. And we actually have people from sales and product and corporate and strategy. Were before it was just the distribution side. So it’s a great team photo.
Jack Sharry: Well, this has been great, Greg much of this, I knew I learned something once again. So thank you for that. And thank you for sharing your perspective and that of the MMI. It’s a wonderful organization. As we look to wrap up, what are three key takeaways you’d like to share with our audience about what we’ve discussed?
Craig Pfeiffer: Yeah, I think we touched on them throughout that. But we talked about people, it’s human beings, and it’s human behavior. It’s machines, but it’s human being and I think that emotional quotient is got to be taken away more and more. And it leads to my second big takeaway is we’re not coming out of the pandemic. We’re coming out of a pandemic era and I think about it very definitively. Take the public health take the medical situation and scenarios to the side. What it was it was the capitulation of 20 years of tension in the workplace, why do I have to come in every day? I can work from home, how can I handle and balance my family? Do I have to get on an airplane go all the way to LA for a dinner, can’t we just do it on the phone, all of those tensions that were there, they’ve been broken, they’ve been proven. That mean, they were bad doesn’t mean they were wrong, there is an alternative. And it’s also forced all of us employees and employers to be flexible, to be adaptive to think of new ways. And actually, they’re not going to come from the headquarters. So people are gonna figure out how to get it done. And we learned incredibly around that. And then I think the last one is, being a leader in this business is really rewarding. But you’re only a leader, if you have followers and followers are only going to follow if they think they’re listened to. And so it’s always been important to listen. But man, and you know, following the old manuals is not going to work, we have got to listen to what’s going on, and listen to people thinking differently and looking at things differently. And I think if we do that, man, it’s gonna be a hell of a lot more smooth. And all the things we tried to come up with on our own it forced upon people.
Jack Sharry: I couldn’t agree more. It’s exciting times. So as we do on our podcasts, as we bring them to a close, can you tell us something interesting or unique you do outside of work that people may not know about you? And they would find interesting or surprising.
Craig Pfeiffer: What else they don’t know, maybe I didn’t want them to know Jack is one I don’t think many people do know, very close people do. But I don’t mind saying it. But I’m actually a, I think I’m a pretty talented amateur chef. And what I mean by that is I’ve had the privilege with you and with everybody. And essentially, I’m going out to dinner with everybody. And I’ve been out to dinner way, way too many nights and spent most of them back at a hotel somewhere thereafter. So when I got home last thing I ever want to do, and frankly, to assist these credit, my wife of 42 years now, since he didn’t want to go out to dinner either. She just wanted to sit in our kitchen and talk to each other because then gone. And so I started cooking. I said, you know, the other night I had this, and it kind of tasted like that. And I went bought the stuff I thought was in it. And it came close. But it wasn’t perfect. And sometimes it was saltier than if less than sometimes it needed salt. So I’ve actually become probably two nights, three nights a week now his life has changed, where I’m actually cooking a really pretty big sized dinner in the middle of the week and having a good time doing it. Now. It’s not ready for primetime, and we can’t charge for it. But she says it’s pretty good.
Jack Sharry: That’s great. That’s great. I love it. So for our audiences, we look to close. I hope you’ve enjoyed our podcasts and this discussion with Craig has been great. If you have please review, subscribe or share what we’re doing here at WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcast. Thank you again, Craig. It’s been a real pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Craig Pfeiffer: Jack, thank you. It’s been a pleasure for me to and I thank you for all that you’ve done for all these decades in the industry. You’ve left a mark I think you know some of the marks but I think you’ve left bigger marks and more marks than you’re aware of Jack, I thank you for that.
Jack Sharry: I appreciate it. Thanks so much.