Program managers have never been more important in the bank channel. Between the advent of ultra-cheap robos and a landscape-changing law like the fiduciary rule, banks are facing more challenges than ever on the adviser front. And if that's not enough, there's the pesky talent shortage and major disruptions brought on by technology.

Even the fundamental idea of bank brokerage is a difficult balance to strike. One side of that equation (banking) is driven by statistics, while the other is supposed to be defined by trust and relationships. Program managers can find themselves bridging that gap between banks and their advisers.

Nicholas Bellino, manager of First National Bank of Pennsylvania’s investment services program, says some of his biggest challenges stem from his bank’s recent acquisition spree.
Nicholas Bellino, manager of First National Bank of Pennsylvania’s investment services program, says some of his biggest challenges stem from his bank’s recent acquisition spree.


Our annual Top 20 Program Managers underscores the best in the channel. You can see our slideshow of these winners, as well as read more about their strategies and insights.

Our top manager this year (warning: spoiler alert) is Nicholas Bellino from First National Bank of Pennsylvania (TPM is Cetera). Bellino has been on our list in the past, but never as the top manager.

Bellino said some of his biggest challenges stem from his bank's acquisition spree in recent years. FNB has been acquired three banks over the last two years, and a total of nine banks in the six years he's been there. In addition to all the usual integration issues, he notes than when an acquired bank already has a small brokerage, there is the additional issue of converting it to a new broker-dealer.

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A bank can't have too many "branch huddles" within the first six months of an acquisition. In FNB's case, management begins to identify who can be a "branch champion" or a go-to person at each new location.

To help meet those challenges, he stresses that a bank cannot have too many "branch huddles" within the first six months of an acquisition. In FNB's case, management begins to identify who can be a "branch champion" or go-to person at each new location.

When asked of the biggest professional change since joining the industry, he cited the DoL rule as causing "a lot of anxiety." But as with past changes, he's confident that his program will adapt and move forward.

Denise Togger is another one of our winning program managers who has overseen major growth at her Union Bank & Trust program. She started there in the summer of 2003 when the program consisted of four advisers and three support staff spread across three locations. After 13 years, and two bank mergers, Togger now manages a 47-person operation with 21 advisers who are given the latitude to develop their practice as they wish. This has resulted in both fee-based and transactional business, with 63% being recurring revenue.

METHODOLOGY

To compile our list, we once again used multiple variables and combined them into a weighted average. Specifically, we used seven factors: (1) total team assets under management; (2) percentage growth of team assets; (3) annual team production; (4) percentage growth of team production; (5) average production per adviser; (6) number of full-time advisers the program manager directly supervises; and (7) number of licensed branch employees the program manager directly supervises. In some cases, we used our own estimates of production-per-adviser by dividing team production by the average number of advisers year-over-year.

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Bellino said some of his biggest challenges stem from his bank's acquisition spree in recent years. FNB has been acquired three banks over the last two years, and a total of nine banks in the six years he's been there.

The first six variables counted the most toward the final scores (number of LBEs was counted the least). And of those first six variables, three depended on size while the other three were based on growth and efficiency, which we would argue are signs of good management.

We have several other return winners, including Kristen Vitale from First Midwest Bank and Gary Collier from Pinnacle. First Midwest and Pinnacle use LPL and Raymond James, respectively, as their TPMs.