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The Best Marketing Tool with Kimberly Beck

Nowadays, marketing is about more than just advertising. It’s about creating a connection with your customers and giving them a positive experience that will make them want to return for more. In financial services, happy customers are worth their weight in gold.

In this episode, Jack talks with Kimberly Beck, Chief Marketing Officer at YieldX. Kimberly has nearly 25 years of experience in the fintech and asset management industries. Before joining YieldX, Kimberly was Head of Wealth Marketing at Envestnet. She also held marketing leadership roles at both BlackRock and Nuveen. At YieldX, Kimberly is responsible for increasing brand awareness and generating revenue.

Kimberly talks with Jack about how she helps advisors deliver better investment outcomes and helps firms deliver improved revenue. She also speaks about the importance of working alongside great people, the value of mentorship, and why happy customers are the best marketing tool.

What Kimberly has to say

“I see more and more firms are helping people shape their financial lives for the better and helping make wealth more accessible to more people. It’s not the same industry that I started in in the 90s. It’s changed and has this deep sense of purpose now.”

– Kimberly Beck, Chief Marketing Officer, YieldX

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Welcome to WealthTech on Deck. Thanks for joining us. I have had the good fortune of working with colleagues from across the industry who are smart, accomplished, and just plain good people. For today’s episode, I will speak with someone who is the poster child for smart, accomplished, and a good human being. Kimberly Beck, or KB as her inner circle calls her, is the mother of four, an active contributor to our financial advice community, and the chief marketing officer at YieldX. Many of you may know her from her days in marketing at Envestnet. And way back when at BlackRock years ago. I’m sure Kimberly will fill us in on some of all that. KB and I have worked together on many industry projects with the MMI and Next Chapter, I’m sure there’s plenty others I’m not even thinking about. But we’ve done a lot of work together, we are both highly committed to advancing our business and our industry. And I feel very fortunate to catch up with her today to learn what she’s up to lately. So, Kimberly, welcome to WealthTech on Deck.

Kimberly Beck: Thank you, Jack. And thank you for the nice intro, the good human being part, that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. So, very honored to be here with you today.

Jack Sharry: Well, I feel the same way. And I wanted to make sure I’ve got it in priority order. Because I think anyone that does what you do and does it so well and has four kids at the same time deserves a medal, or somethin. A lot more than a medal. But in any event, good to have you on the show. So, KB, you’ve worn many hats at some of the largest firms in our industry, of late some of the smaller, more startup oriented stuff. So let’s start with you describing your background and career leading up to your role at YieldX.

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, sure. So I like to break my career up into two pieces. I think I spent the first half of my career in the asset management space. So really started way back when over at Nuveen, was there for several years always in marketing roles and advisor education roles.

Jack Sharry: If I may interrupt, I believe you started your career at Rittenhouse, which later became part of Nuveen. So maybe talk about that, because way back when we competed with one another. You were probably later than that, but still, remember it and that’s one of the one of the fine, boutique managers way back when.

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, that’s right. So back in the late 90s, I actually found, I was very early on, practically just out of college. And my college actually sent a newsletter, snail mail, with opportunities in the area. So Rittenhouse was based in Radnor, Pennsylvania where my college was. I responded to the request by calling them, back in the old days. They called me back, we did that over time. I joke a little bit because when I walked in I was this kid from Northeast Philly. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I had no idea what a financial advisor did or was at the time. I literally pulled up in a pickup truck, that’s what I drove at the time, in my $10 suit and thought I’m gonna go in and I’m gonna get this job. I walked in, my feet sank into these beautiful white carpets. There was wood paneling and brass all over and I thought, “I don’t belong here.” I almost ran back out. But I went ahead and I met the hiring manager. I think he hired me pretty much on the spot that day, it was for a marketing coordinator position. I think that the best part of the story is that person who hired me and who ran the marketing at Rittenhouse was Bill Crager, who is now the CEO at Envestnet, so really great story.

Jack Sharry: Yeah, that’s what I love about this business, frankly, what I love about these podcasts is we get to hear that kind of story. I thought that marketing manager might have been Bill Crager, who I knew way back when, has done pretty well since and also for those of you who are not familiar, Northeast Philadelphia is very much a blue collar neighborhood or it’s a separate town than Philly, but it’s bootstrapped. And in terms of getting in the door, Rittenhouse is a pretty fancy firm as I recall at the time.

Kimberly Beck: It definitely was, it definitely was. I made it work though. I made it work and I had… Nuveen had just acquired them. So I was there for probably about six or seven years before I went over to MLIM, which was the asset management unit that Merrill Lynch had back in the day.

Jack Sharry: Great. And that became BlackRock. So keep going, tell us more. One after another because a lot of these… this is a walk down memory lane here.

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, sure. So, you know, BlackRock had come in and acquired my division out of MLIM. There was a lot of change at the time. At the time, none of us knew who BlackRock was, right. So that was, I want to say 2004. They had a name in the institutional space, but that was about it. The rest of us were like, oh, we’re going from you know, “Mother Merrill” to this little known BlackRock shop. Like, I don’t know about this. I don’t know if this is the right thing.

Jack Sharry: They had minuscule retail assets. BlackRock isn’t the BlackRock we know today, right?

Kimberly Beck: Absolutely, absolutely. And so, you know, I was part of the marketing team that really helped to, you know, build their presence in the retail space. So that was an exciting time for me. I had, you know, a great career at BlackRock, I can’t say enough good things about the place, but, and the people at BlackRock and the opportunities at BlackRock, I held numerous, you know, marketing leadership roles there, I ran product marketing for a while, mutual fund marketing, my last role there, I led all education advisor, education programs, and market insight programs. And that was really fun. You know, BlackRock had kept a close eye on Envestnet, we were always watching what Envestnet was doing. And I had, you know, connections back in Envestnet. So I kept a close eye on them as well, and was just, you know, really enamored by what they were doing in this space and how they were disrupting the industry. And, you know, these were people I knew that had started it. So it was, you know, pretty exciting to me. I had started to get a little bit more involved in marketing technology, because BlackRock also had Aladdin, you know, that was reserved for institutions. But again, we were starting to sell that out to intermediaries. So my interest in the FinTech space really started then. And between that and kind of keeping an eye on Envestnet, I reached out, you know, to Envestnet again, I was happy at BlackRock, but I was just looking for something different and something new. And, you know, I had reached out over to Envestnet. My timing was right, they had just started building this new office in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, which is, you know, my hometown, just outside of Philadelphia now. You know, made the switch over there. And I think I was probably employee number five in that office. And I think now they’re close to 400 in that office. Yeah.

Jack Sharry: How long were you at Envestnet before you moved on?

Kimberly Beck: So I want to say I was there seven years total, it really feels like I was there a lot longer. In a good way, though. There was just so much innovation during that time, we had made several acquisitions during that time, we went through such a transformation as a firm during that time. We lost our, you know, CEO, Jud Bergman during that time, which, you know, really was an emotional time for us as a firm. I made so many great connections, friends, that I still call them my friends from Envestnet, that I still keep in touch with. So really, you know, I look at Envestnet so fondly, and really, that was a highlight of my career, for sure.

Jack Sharry: And then you moved on to a couple of startups. Tell us about that.

Kimberly Beck: Yeah. So you know, at YieldX now. So Yield X and Envestnet do have a strategic relationship. So everything comes full circle. It’s a startup that I always say, you know, this is either going to be the dumbest career decision that I’ve made, or the smartest. Leaning towards smartest right now. It was a little bit of a risk for me. As you mentioned, I have four kids, I have one in college, one in high school, one in middle school, one in grade school. I have, I run the gamut on the really, you know, I’m not a big risk taker. But I looked at what YieldX was offering, I looked at their platform. And I thought, wow, this is some really cool technology, like BlackRock has been trying to build this for, for quite a few years. This is really interesting. So that, I think the leadership is really solid here, all of those things, you know, I like the startup world. I always wanted to try it, I just never pulled the trigger on it. All of those things, you know, just led me to make this move.

Jack Sharry: So for the layperson, who doesn’t follow YieldX, tell us about the company, what do you guys do? And then we’ll talk after that about what you do there for them, with them?

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, absolutely. So you know, YieldX, we really offer a digital investment and insights platform. And we really deliver that to wealth management firms, asset managers, and then advisors are ultimately our end users. What we’re trying to do is really help advisors deliver better investment outcomes and help these firms deliver improved revenue. So we have technology that really empowers firms to personalize, customize, and optimize portfolios. And we’re really putting these institutional grade portfolio construction tools in the hands of advisors. A little bit of our backstory. So Adam Green, he is our CEO and our co founder, and he started his career on Wall Street as a bond trader. So I think what he saw was, was key to why, you know, he founded YieldX. I think one thing he noticed was, you know, equities and derivatives traders, they had access to all this aggregated research and data and automated processes. But on the fixed income side, they were still really using these manual, inefficient and ineffective processes. So, the mission of YieldX was, how can we use technology to solve these challenges on the fixed income side? So since our start in 2019, I think that mission has grown. And we’re really offering a platform that’s helping you know, financial institutions and advisors construct these custom portfolios that meet clients’ specific needs. And we’re starting to expand beyond fixed income now.

Jack Sharry: I didn’t realize it was that short a period of time, it’s only three years…

Kimberly Beck: Yeah.

Jack Sharry: Since YieldX has been in place. From everything I hear, I just hear great things about the firm. What is it? Obviously, the… sure, the technology is great, and the insights and all the rest of that, but tell me more about what it is that makes YieldX such an attractive play for advisors?

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, I don’t think anybody else has the apps and the APIs that we’re delivering out there. We have a really slick user interface. I think that is key. I think we’re really simplifying this, so you can really just input what your target yield is, what your target risk is for your clients. And within minutes, we’re… not even within minutes, I shouldn’t say that, within seconds, we’re scanning the whole fixed income universe, looking for fixed income securities that really meet those needs. So I think that’s key. I think the other thing that we’re starting to do is we have batch optimization capabilities that we’re offering to enterprises. So we can scan all of an enterprise’s accounts and really show them where there’s opportunity to increase yield or reduce risk for their investors. And we can implement that in one fell swoop. So you know, again, it can be delivered overnight, you can make these changes to client portfolios overnight. Oftentimes, we’re finding that there’s a revenue benefit for some of these firms. So often when, when, you know, you move investors into a home office model, you do see that improved yield and reduced risks when many advisors were offering, you know, APM solutions. So I think we’re seeing a lot of those benefits there. I think we have a good team that really knows the space. I think we have a quality engineering team and UX team that has really put together a great, great platform.

Jack Sharry: So you seem to me, as I listen to the story, a walking representative of the YieldX story. So what… tell me about your role at YieldX, you’re the chief marketing officer there, I imagine more than coming up with how to characterize it in a succinct and compelling way. But I imagine you probably do a little bit more than that, so talk a little bit about what you’re doing in terms of getting the YieldX story out and making sure that it resonates in the marketplace.

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, so I think a few things, I think, you know, just really, you know, working alongside Steve and Adam, our co founders, and, and thinking through our business strategy, and what’s next, listening to really what clients’ main key challenges are, right? And, and how we’re, you know, working with them to evolve our platform to meet those needs. So chief marketing officer, it’s funny, I went from, you know, Envestnet and having a pretty significant team to really, you know, having a two person team right now, and one of those people is me. So it’s funny. So it’s a lot more hands on than I’ve been in the past, right, you know, not only, you know, focused on marketing strategy, but also doing a lot of the writing and the nitty gritty myself, which has been refreshing to go back to that.

Jack Sharry: I can relate to it.

Kimberly Beck: Of all people, Jack, you can… I know you know. Yeah. But I think you know, there’s two components that, you know, I look at, you know, my role as being responsible for. One is increasing brand awareness for the firm. So I would say that’s about, you know, 40% of what we’re trying to do on a daily basis, just increase that brand awareness through PR, advertising, educational content, etc. And then the other piece is really contributing to revenue generation. So running campaigns into specific solutions that, you know, are helping to generate revenue, I think we’re really looking at an account based marketing approach here. A lot of you know, our target market are these enterprises, and helping them do business. So I think that’s key to it. And then I always say on top of all that, more important than anything is, you know, making sure that, you know, once we do get a client that those clients are happy, right, and they become our advocates, and they become our best marketing tools. So that client success and client piece is key too.

Jack Sharry: So you and I keep tripping over each other in the marketplace, particularly around such wonderful organizations as Next Chapter and MMI. And you continue to do that. Talk a little bit about that, because I, I notice you’re one of the first always to raise your hand about how to help the industry advance. So tell us about that.

Kimberly Beck: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. You know, I think I got very involved in some of those organizations, particularly during my time at Envestnet. So I was on the board of governors for MMI. And, you know, I had heard about MMI before that, but I hadn’t really gotten involved very much. And what I realized is, you know, between like MMI, Next Chapter in particular, you look at those two organizations, and I know they’re partnering together, powerhouse of people with great ideas, right, and competitors, in some cases who are coming together to make our industry better, right. And so anytime I can be a part of that, and can help advance that, you know, and, you know, drive our industry forward, I will absolutely be the first one to raise my hand to make that happen. So very involved in that, I think, you know, I talked a little bit earlier about Envestnet. And, you know, being one of the first people in that Berwyn office, I think there was an opportunity for me to really help build out that culture, I think I was one of the co founders of our women’s initiative network there. And that is really growing and thriving, we also have started Envestnet Cares initiative there. And you know, giving back to the communities in which we operate, that continues to grow and thrive. And so it’s good to see that it’s, and there’s an element of, you know, giving back, especially as I, you know, got later on in my career that’s really important to me, and really brings deep level and personal level of satisfaction to my career.

Jack Sharry: That’s one of the things that we don’t talk about much on this podcast or around the industry, those of us that can’t help but raise our hand. Whether we should or shouldn’t is another matter, but we can’t help ourselves. But it’s really wonderful to see how many different… I think in Next Chapter, there’s 60 Different executives that are involved in that organization, and corralled or participated with a number of folks on the Leadership in Action program, a program I was involved with and co-led with Cheryl Nash. And I know for me, and I’m sure the same for you. I’d love to hear more. I just, I think it’s so much fun. One, like you mentioned earlier, a lot of good ideas, a lot of smart people, and you’re working on problems. So that makes it a lot more interesting. I’m sure you found that on the MMI board. I served on that years ago, but same idea. You’re around smart people, important ideas. And frankly, one of the things I’ve done, and I know you’ve done, I love the mentoring, you know, I love to give back in that way. And I had mentors, still have mentors for that matter. But always important, I think, to have people in your life that are, you know, kind of been there, done that and you can learn from. So talk about that, if you would, in terms of your own experience.

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, absolutely. Mentorship is very, very important to me. I often, like just get teary eyed when I talk about it. But I had, you know, an advisor in college, who took me under his wing, and I don’t know that I would have ever graduated college if it wasn’t for him. At one point, you know, my, I think it was my sophomore year, my parents, they ran out of money. And you know, we couldn’t afford college, and I was going to need to take some time off. And this wonderful man just, you know, called me into his office and he said, here’s three scholarships, let’s apply and see what happens. And I got all three. I got all three. I didn’t even know that money was available out there, you know, I would have never even thought I was worthy of those scholarships, had he not just given me that little nudge and confidence boost. So you know, when I look back, right, like, I was so blessed and lucky to have somebody like that in my life who pushed me forward. So I try to do that for others. And I’m involved in, you know, formal mentorships, very informal mentorships. You know, right now through MMI, I’m doing one through there. My colleges that I want to, I have two mentees from there. There was one week a few weeks ago where two colleagues had reached out to me, two former colleagues, and said, “Hey, my daughter is looking to get into marketing. She’s in college now would you mind having a conversation or giving some guidance, right?” And so that’s that’s informal mentorship. I’ve had interns now that I’ve seen grow into really great roles within financial services. And there’s just again, just this deep personal gratification in being able to help others succeed. And what I truly value is doing that.

Jack Sharry: Well, we’re singing from the same hymnal, as they say. I had a mentor, I’ve had many over the course of my life, all of whom had a similar kind of impact…not… different, but impact in terms of the power of the impact to the story shared about your professor. One that particularly stands out. I was a tennis pro, believe it or not. I taught tennis during college and after for a number of years at an indoor and outdoor tennis club. And I started teaching a guy that, his wife gave it to him as a Christmas present, a set of lessons. He was the most uncoordinated person I’ve ever dealt with, but he became a lifelong friend.

Kimberly Beck: You haven’t seen me try to play tennis yet, Jack.

Jack Sharry: Well, you could not have been worse. But he was just such a delightful guy, very successful entrepreneur. And mostly, he continued the lessons, even though we both knew nothing was gonna get better for either of us and what we really, both look forward to it. He as a mentor, I’m sure you have this experience, I know I do, but he just thoroughly enjoyed being my mentor and couldn’t wait to get together. I had my questions. I had my doubts. Of course, I had all that. And he just kept lifting me up. So I know you must go through the same thing.

Kimberly Beck: That’s exactly it. You said it so perfectly. It lifts me up. That’s, it gives me energy, it kind of gives me a fresh perspective. And the funny thing is, is that I learn from my mentees probably just as much as they learn from me.

Jack Sharry: Yeah, very true. So back to business. Although, this, I think is a fundamental part of our business. In my experience, I know it’s, I’m sure it’s yours is that I see so many of the who I consider to be leaders that they, that’s what they do, they make sure they extend a hand and help the next generation, help them… fellow colleagues, maybe a little younger, in the business and lift them up. So let’s talk about our business in the traditional sense. Where do you see it going? Where do you see YieldX going? Where do you see our industry going? What… how do things play out in the coming months and years? Everything now is a short timeframe. So over the next three to five years, where do you see the world going?

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, so I think there’s a few things that I think about. So I think, you know, there’s this tremendous shift in our industry that’s needed to happen. It’s been in the works for a while. But I finally see it coming to fruition. And that’s really the shift in our industry from advisors delivering products to delivering quality advice. So you see them more and more really getting involved in financial planning, right? Outcome based personalized advice, really, depending on the needs of the client. Right. So I think that’s one thing that, you know, I see happening, finally happening after many years of talking about it. And then I think, really, technology is empowering. At the same time, I also see data is becoming more and more important. It’s actually not the data that’s becoming important there is, we have a tremendous amount of data. I think, really, it’s the business intelligence and the insights from the data that is really starting to transform financial institutions, right. And helping firms, you know, operate more profitably, more efficiently, really helping to drive revenue. So I think those two things are coming together. I think the final thing I would say there is that, you know, I would say over the past few years, there is this deeper purpose in our industry that is settling in, right, and this kind of goes back to our last conversation. But more and more I see firms, you know, and certainly, you know, firms are focused on revenue and profit, I’m not, you know, naive to that. But there is an element of really wanting to do good, right. And, you know, helping people shape their financial lives for the better, helping make wealth more accessible, right, to more people. It’s definitely not the same industry that you know, I started in in the 90s. It’s really changed and has this deep sense of purpose now.

Jack Sharry: It’s interesting, KB, that I’m in the midst of writing an article that will appear in Financial Advisor magazine, it’s going to be a feature story, I’m told, we’ll see where I’m talking about all the things you just talked about. I interviewed for the podcast, which is one of the side benefits of these podcasts, I meet the most interesting people telling the most interesting stories, yourself included. But I interviewed Ken Dychtwald last week, we will talk about where he sees it going. He’s very much about purpose and financial wherewithal coming together. And a few other things. I’ll leave it to that podcast, and then this article that will appear in Financial Advisor magazine. And next week, as we do this recording just before Thanksgiving, and will likely come out sometime in January, we’ll see. But we’re doing a new interview with Ken Cella, who is the head of the branch system at Edward Jones along with Ken Dychtwald, and all the time, money, and effort that Edward Jones is putting into building a platform based on the Dychtwald research, a lot of what they talk about, because we prepared kind of have a sense of where they’re gonna go with this and read many of the stuff, many of the articles that have been written about them and so on. But it’s much more about a more of a purpose driven kind of business. And as people live longer, as they have much larger issues then back to your original point, or early point around just, it’s not just product include and incorporate the product into solutions. All this is part of where we’re going. So, KB, I always knew we were simpatico, but we’re…

Kimberly Beck: This solidifies it.

Jack Sharry: Yes, for sure. So our time grows short as we try to keep these to less than a half an hour. At this point, what I’d like to do is ask if you would, Kimberly, to, what are three key takeaways that our audience should take with them? Because you’ve shared a lot, but if you were boil it down to three things, what would those be?

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, so, three things… I think I’ll give you one for the industry, one for marketing, and one for, you know, where we started and thinking about careers. I think for the industry, I think it’s, you know, advisors are really being asked to do more, right, there’s… for more people for, for less money, right. So as an industry, we have to think about, you know, from technology providers to asset management providers, how do we support them? How do we help to enhance the quality of the advice that they’re offering? How do we help them reach more investors? I really think if they do it the right way, right, they can actually end up making more money, right. And so there’s a level of support and power, that we can really help drive there. I think, you know, for the industry, too, we need to continue to ground ourselves in that deeper purpose, right. So how do we use our capabilities? And how do we come together as an industry to help transform financial lives? I think, from a marketing perspective, and I touched on this earlier, but I truly believe this more and more. Happy customers are really your best marketing tool, right? So you can do all the work you want around brand awareness, you can spend money, you can do all sorts of demand generation. But if you don’t wake up every morning with a deep desire to really help your customers and deliver a great experience to them, right. That’s all, you know, moot, like, so… Again, happy customers, best marketing tool. And then, you know, as I think about careers in this industry, I feel so honored to be here. I never dreamed I would end up in this industry. But I think there’s a couple key things that I learned. And, you know, when I think about, you know, young people coming into this industry, I think it’s a helping profession. I have a friend Phil, he runs a small marketing agency called Substance. And he shared something he says make happy money, right? So your bottom line isn’t necessarily about the dollar amount that you’re making. But it’s really about how happy you are in making that money. Right? That’s the true bottom line. And I firmly believe that. Finally, I’d say on that point, you know, surround yourself with great people. You know, no company is perfect. Every company has trials and tribulations. And if you talk to anybody, you’ll find somebody who’s unhappy, right? Every company has challenges and problems. But if you’re working alongside great people to solve them, and you’re working with people who make you excited, who make you do, you know, are you better at your own craft, and who give you energy? Right, 90% of the battle is the people you work with. So I think surround yourself with great people would be the other thing I’d say.

Jack Sharry: Great. So, KB, this has been a pleasure as always to catch up with you. I’ve enjoyed our conversation very much. Thank you. And as we do at each of our podcasts at this point, my favorite question is, what do you do outside of work that you are excited or passionate about and people might find interesting or surprising?

Kimberly Beck: Yeah, so there hasn’t been a lot of time outside of work, to be honest with you, Jack, right. There’s four kids, there’s a full time job. But I would say I think one interest of mine, that people and this, I always think about this, if I ever leave this industry, you might find me as somewhat of a health and nutrition coach. I really believe in the power of nutrition and physical activity and mindfulness in really, you know, making people’s lives better. My dad, you know, had a heart attack, I think, you know, at a pretty young age when he was 51. And, you know, I watched him, drove him to the hospital, in fact. It was a pretty serious one. And ever since that I was determined that he was going to live a long and healthy life. And so I just started reading up on, you know, everything I could at the time. And since then, you know, it’s just been a passion of mine. I’m constantly reading and constantly learning more, I’m hungry for that information. And you know, my dad’s 83 now, he’s still here. So that’s some of it.

Jack Sharry: So, thank you, KB. This has been a wonderful conversation. I look forward to our next. We should do this more often. For our audience, if you’ve enjoyed our podcast, please rate, review, subscribe, and share what we’re doing here at WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you again, KB, it’s been a real pleasure, and I look forward to the next time.

Kimberly Beck: Likewise. Thanks so much, Jack.