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Q&A with Tonia Bottoms, BNY Mellon | Pershing

We sat down with Tonia Bottoms from BNY Mellon | Pershing to pick her brain on the state of the financial services industry. Where are we now? Where are we headed? Who will lead us into the future? Tonia offers her insights on some of the burning questions facing the industry.

Tonia will be speaking and BNY Mellon | Pershing will be featured as a sponsor at the upcoming Diversitas Symposium, taking place Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021. The virtual event is free to attend and will dive into the future of the industry and opportunities for young professionals looking to succeed in financial services. Register to attend here.

Tell us about the work you do to increase diversity and inclusion in financial services. Have you/your firm launched any initiatives to bring more diverse talent to the industry?

At BNY Mellon’s Pershing, we have a number of initiatives to bring more talent to the industry. Here’s a sample:

  • We have committed to ensuring diverse candidate slates for every open position.
  • We have introduced an ambassador interviewer program to help build a more inclusive interview and hiring experience, ensuring every candidate aligns with our values and behaviors, cutting through biases in the hiring process and sharing honest perspectives with candidates about where we’re going on our DEI journey.
  • We have a number of programs designed to educate young people about the industry and internships, analyst and high school programs to expose them to the industry. We intentionally hire from these programs.
  • We also have a number of mentoring and sponsorship programs to help career development once the talent is here.
  • And we’re partnering with groups like Diversitas to try to help change the perception of financial services as a career choice.

Recruiting is a major issue for wealth management firms. What do you think the industry can do to bring more young people into the financial advisory profession?

There’s a great opportunity to operationalize ways to decrease bias. The Ambassador Interviewer program I mentioned is one way we’re doing that. We’re also looking at ways to expand the pool of talent by looking at how we’re framing job descriptions, encouraging our hiring managers to look for talent in different places. Hiring managers need to evaluate talent differently, thinking about what transferrable skills could translate into a great development opportunity and could appeal to a candidate that might not have considered Financial Services as a first choice of industry. We’re also working with universities and organizations to communicate the benefits and opportunities within financial services, leveraging affinity groups and relationships across the industry broadly.

How do you suggest young professionals find mentors, and how should they leverage that relationship to their advantage?

Mentors and sponsors are so important along your career journey. A great place to start is to look at what Employee Resource and affinity groups already exist within your company. But it can also be an advisor, a teacher, a family friend.

Take a chance, put yourself out there. You will be pleasantly surprised at how people want to help others. Look for those you admire, that may have different skills than you, and those who have been in the industry to see the ups and downs and know the ins and outs of financial services. Learn from experience. Get their advice on your career path.

You asked about mentors, but sponsorship is also important. The difference between a mentor and a sponsor is that a mentor is someone who talks with you. A sponsor is someone who talks about you to those who can help with future opportunities.

Build mutually beneficial relationships, ask for feedback, it’s a gift. You’ll be glad you did.

What impact do you hope organizations like Diversitas will have on the wealth management industry in the coming years?

The work that Diversitas is doing to highlight the opportunities in the industry will have a lasting impact on increased representation, and will help create an industry that reflects the broad diversity of our world. Frankly, it can also help narrow the wealth gap through increasing access to financial planning for people with all kinds of life experiences. The more we see ourselves represented, the more likely we are to engage. The more perspectives we have informing our products, strategies and approaches to wealth management, the better we serve our customers.

Tonia Bottoms is a Managing Director and Senior Managing Counsel for BNY Mellon’s Pershing. She is also Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Advocate for Pershing and is a member of Pershing’s Executive Committee.

In her legal role, Tonia specializes in the areas of retirement plans and financial products. She provides advice and guidance regarding the compliance and oversight of retirement and education savings products, including traditional and Roth individual retirement accounts (IRAs), savings incentive match plan for employees (SIMPLE) IRAs, qualified retirement plans and 529 college savings plans. Tonia works closely with senior leadership on developing regulatory and legislative matters affecting the retirement and fiduciary businesses. She advises all aspects of Pershing’s retirement business which spans individual and plan markets.  Prior to joining Pershing in May 2010, Tonia was a director and senior counsel at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

As Diversity & Inclusion Advocate, Tonia leads efforts for Pershing to advance BNY Mellon’s mission to build and strengthen our culture with evidence that D&I is a social and business imperative that powers engagement, performance and growth, and increases value, competitiveness and positive impact across all our stakeholders.