Head of North American Distribution
BNY Mellon Investment Management
As Head of North American Distribution for BNY Mellon Investment Management, Kim Mustin takes the art of multi-tasking to new heights. Mustin oversees roughly 450 people in North America, with primary responsibilities for sales, marketing and distribution to a full complement of clients within the U.S. in both the retail and institutional sectors.
When Mustin joined the BNY Mellon Investment Management team in April 2014, she became part of the largest multi-boutique organization in the world, an institution with some $1.6 trillion in assets under management that is driven by the horsepower of 13 institutional-quality investment boutiques.
Before joining BNY Mellon, Mustin was Head of Global Strategic Accounts at Oppenheimer Funds, leading all institutional buyer groups including institutional, retail, third party and global private banking platforms. Prior to Oppenheimer, Mustin served as both Head of Institutional at Legg Mason and Co-Head of American Distribution for Legg Mason affiliates. Prior to that appointment, she worked with Deutsche Bank, Scudder Investments, State Street Global Advisors and Putnam Investments. Mustin began her career in the financial services sector as an agent with the US Treasury Department.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mustin and discuss the opportunities and challenges inherent to her new position. In Part One of our interview, we talked about Mustin’s approach to strategic and managerial issues and the importance of advocating for oneself.
The drive to achieve better outcomes
As Head of North American Distribution, Mustin has a host of issues vying for her attention at any given time. What, I asked, have been the biggest challenges she has encountered since stepping into her new role?
“With any new role the first challenge is to meet the objective you set going in. I’m responsible for the full complement of retail and institutional distribution, and from day one my mission has been to grow our North American sales and distribution platform to better serve our clients. One thing that I’ve always been incredibly passionate about is helping clients realize better outcomes. When you’re talking to somebody about their investments, the way that you get better outcomes is to really listen to them and understand their priorities, fears, and risk tolerance, and only then act as their advocate. What really drew me to BNY Mellon is that approach–we have so much to offer our clients.
“In these early days, the task is really about getting to know the organization and understanding the products that we manufacture globally. In an organization of the breadth and scale of BNY Mellon Investment Management, the challenge becomes one of prioritizing your objectives so as not to stretch yourself too thin that you can’t be effective in making an immediate difference. Coupled with that, the need to balance my time with my family means that I’m a good juggler!”
The need to leverage multi-tasking skills
In light of Mustin’s diverse portfolio of responsibilities, I couldn’t help but wonder about her views on multi-tasking. Does she believe in the concept, I inquired, and if yes, does it affect the way she leads? And does she buy into the popular assertion that women’s abilities outstrip men’s in this regard?
“I’ve had the great fortune to work with some amazing men and women, which speaks to the need for creating diversified teams that are not only of different color or sex but who also have different soft skills. When you’re drawing on different strengths and ideas, you’re able to move the ball faster down the field on your strategic objectives.
“That’s why, since arriving, I’ve been focused on our strategic priorities, which helps people align both their softer skills and their hard skills to reach specific goals. It’s created a great collegial work environment and has also enabled us to achieve better business outcomes.”
The importance of building consensus
Given Mustin’s views on the benefits of creating teams of individuals with diverse, and often disparate, skill sets, I was curious to hear her thoughts on consensus building. One oftentimes hears the claim that women tend to work more collaboratively than men. I queried Mustin as to whether her experiences supported this assertion.
“It’s really hard to stereotype. “It depends on the person and the situation, but consensus building is critically important, particularly in my current role. We’re in a large organization and there’s a lot of transformational change going on. Having my team buy into where we’re going will help us get further faster, and that’s really what we try to do.”
The benefits of hard work
Given the dearth of women within financial services that have been able to get into senior level and C-suite roles, and even into the boardroom, I asked Mustin what steps she had taken to achieve such a high degree of success in the field and navigate to the role that she’s in today.
“My parents divorced when I was young and my mother worked, and she remains a very influential figure in my life. She taught me the value of money and of saving at a very young age, which I think led to my interest in financial services.
“One belief that I have carried throughout my career is the importance of follow-through – of doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s important to establish credibility and dependability, key traits needed for success and advancement.
“Critical problem solving skills are also crucial. I have three children—two young daughters and a son—and every day I try to instill in them an understanding of conflict resolution and working together to get to the right outcome of a situation. That’s a skill that’s important for everyone, no matter your age or profession.”
The courage to make the ask
While Mustin’s mother clearly played an important mentoring role in her life, I wondered if there were others who had mentored her as she moved up through the ranks in her career. Were there specific people who had helped, I asked, and how does she feel about the mentoring-sponsorship issue in general?
“Formal mentoring programs can be especially helpful for people early in their careers. The structure can really lend itself to development for someone who is just discovering their path and building their network.
“Every mentoring relationship I’ve had, however, has been on an informal basis, and it’s always been someone that I sought out. Sometimes, even more so than a formal mentor relationship, “mentoring in the moment” can really be a key component of success. For example, if I were dealing with some sort of political situation in the workplace or were about to make a big budget ask and I knew that someone was really good at framing an argument in front of the finance committee, I would ask, ‘Can you teach me how you do that?’ The key is to learn from others and emulate good behavior. I think that really is part of the secret of my success in getting to where I am today. When you go to someone and ask for their help, you’re telling them that you respect their skills in a particular area. You’re saying ‘You do this really well, and I would love to understand how to do it.’ And if you can take those things and string them together from all the great people that you meet in your career, it makes you a better executive.
“And of course, it’s just as important to be a mentor as to have one. I’m happy to play this role; both men and women call me about job decisions, about whether it’s the right time to step out of the workplace to have children, things that they’re experiencing at work, and so on. I think that’s really what a mentor should be: somebody who picks up the phone when you call and helps with whatever you need.
“Historically, most of my mentors have been men; as it happens there were not a lot of senior women above me. Regardless, I found mentors that were willing to invest the time to help me think through things and develop the skills that I’ve carried with me throughout my career.
“It’s really important for women to build their own network of mentors as they advance in their career. Not only is it a crucial sounding board that can make a huge difference in their career progression, but putting your network together is a very entrepreneurial undertaking, and that’s a skill that serves people in the workplace very well.”