Allspring Global Investments is excited to be celebrating its one-year anniversary. In this episode, Joe Sullivan, chief executive officer and chair of Allspring’s Board of Directors, and Kelly Vives, chief marketing and communications officer, look back at the first year of the firm and look forward to its promising future.
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Kelly Vives: I’m Kelly Vives, CMO (chief marketing officer) of Allspring Global Investments, and you’re listening to On the Trading Desk®. Today, we’re excited to be speaking about Allspring’s one-year anniversary. It’s been quite a year for us as we have become an independent asset manager and launched a new brand and company and are standing up our infrastructure, bringing in fantastic new talent, and continuing to do what we do best—building strong relationships with our clients. Joining us is our chair and CEO (chief executive officer), Joe Sullivan, who will be speaking with us and taking a look back and a look forward for Allspring. Thanks for being here, Joe.
Joe Sullivan: It’s good to be here. Thank you.
Kelly: So, Joe, last year we signed the deal in February. You were named CEO and we announced Allspring’s name in July and we launched officially on November 1. So, we are very quickly approaching our one-year anniversary.
Joe: Our official one-year anniversary.
Kelly: Our official one-year anniversary. So, can you take me through some of your favorite moments over that time?
Joe: I mean, we have done a lot, right? It’s been an incredible year of change in getting to this point. And we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount. I think one of the first memories I have, one of the most vivid memories, was getting a call in the summer, early summer, of last year from our buyers who said that my predecessor, Nico Marais, had come to the conclusion that it would be better for the company to have a new voice and a different voice once we became Allspring. And he really felt like that was an important transition point. And while that was certainly a huge surprise to me because at the time you’ll remember I was executive chair, it was also, I think, a big surprise to the buyers. But Collin Roche called me and I remember exactly where I was and what we talked about. He asked if I would be interested in doing it and I said, well, I most certainly would, but I needed to talk to somebody who’s very important—my wife, Suzy—to see if she was on board with me embarking on this. And anyway, fast forward, I remember we went to dinner and I said, I need to talk to you about something. And she said, this is about Allspring, isn’t it? And I said, yes.
Kelly: She knew. (laughs)
Joe: She knows me well. We’ve been married 42 years. And I said to her that Nico was going to step down as of the close and that I had been invited to step in as CEO, but I needed to talk with her. And I’ll never forget, she said, Joe, I’ve been listening to you for the last six or so months on the phone, even as executive chair, talking to people every day about Allspring and about the potential of the company. And she said, I can hear you in the other room because I’m doing this from my home office. And she said, I hear how excited you are and I hear your passion for the opportunity that is Allspring. And she said, I think if you don’t do this, you’re going to regret it, right? And I said, yes, I will regret it. And she said, then I think that’s the answer. And that was literally our discussion. It was about less than five minutes.
Kelly: I love that.
Joe: But it was about a no-regrets decision.
Kelly: Yeah. Well, I think we can feel your passion as leaders and employees for what we’re trying to do here.
Joe: I think the other thing, though, Kelly, is you talked about all the things that we’ve been doing. The reaction that we’ve gotten, the reaction that we got immediately to the branding of the company and the naming of the company—our clients have been incredibly supportive. You just see the enthusiasm around Allspring and about what the potential for this company is to reshape and redesign and re-architect this company for our clients in a way that elevates, right? And our mission—elevating investing to be worth more—we take that seriously and we mean it, right? And so I think this notion, our clients hear that. Our employees are excited about that. What does that mean? How can we do it differently and better and more? And so, I think there’s a real genuine enthusiasm and an excitement around Allspring. That’s my favorite part—hearing that from our clients, from our colleagues, from potential candidates that we talked to about joining. You talked about how we’ve been able to draw great candidates. You feel that in talking to people, this enthusiasm around Allspring.
Kelly: You just mentioned our mission to elevate investing to be worth more. And I think that comes through in how we interact with each other, with our employees, with clients, with the outside world. But can you share an example on what that means in action with our clients at Allspring?
Joe: So, there’s a couple of thoughts. One is, I think at Allspring, we all need to own the client. I think sometimes we think, oh, that’s sales’ job, right? That’s a salesperson’s job. It’s not. It’s my job. It’s your job. It’s all of our jobs. And if we come in every day with the mindset that we’re sort of all in sales, we all own the client, I think that’s critically important because I think part of what will distinguish us and part of what will help us to elevate that experience for our clients to be worth more is if we all truly understand the client better than anyone else in the industry—maybe even better than sometimes our clients understand themselves, right? So I think about one of our colleagues, Rene Picazo, who said to me one time that as he approaches clients, he always likes to sit, metaphorically and maybe even sometimes actually, on the same side of the table, not on the other side. So it’s not transactional. It’s not a deal. It’s a conversation and it’s a collaboration. And we need to have this mindset that we’re working with and for our clients. And I see that in the way that we’re operating with many of the consultants, some of the largest in the industry, where we’re working with them—not just on the work that they have to do around due diligence, investment due diligence, and operational due diligence, which is great and we work together on that, but also in certain situations where we have one business but it needs to be structured differently. We have a very large global consultant that awarded us a mandate for their OCIO (outsourced chief investment officer) but spread it out over three different continents—one in Canada, one in Europe, and another one in Australia. But each of those allocations has to be done differently and priced a little bit differently because of the nuances of the local market. So we worked with them to figure it out in a way that works for us but also works for them.
Kelly: We can think about this year. It most certainly has not been the easiest year to be an asset manager navigating these markets. A war in Ukraine. A confluence of many geopolitical events that are connected.
Joe: The Fed. Inflation. On and on.
Kelly: Right? Just pretty relentless. So, we’re launching a company amid all of this, right?
Joe: It’s the perfect time to do it. (laughs)
Kelly: Just really timed that well. (laughs) But let’s talk through those challenges and those hurdles that we experienced as a business.
Joe: It’s actually a great time to launch a company because it’s always easy to do everything and kind of have rose-colored glasses a little bit when you’re doing things in a great environment. We’re launching this company through a very difficult environment. We’re not alone. Everybody in the industry is going through challenges. Our clients are going through challenges. So, if we were doing nothing else other than just taking care of business as usual, working with our clients, making sure they understand what’s going on in their portfolios and things like that. I mean, this is a tough time for clients. It’s a tough time for us. It’s a difficult time in the markets like everybody. We’ve taken on a tremendous amount and we’re getting it done. And it’s amazing. It’s amazing to see, for me, not just the resilience of our people, and I know that that’s an overused word, but the incredible resilience of our people. We’ve had all these kinds of things where we’ve had bumps and things that have come up that we’ve had to work through. But we’ve done so and we’ve done so with a great resilience. This is a gritty company. This is a group of people who are grinders, who work hard, they face these things, and we get the job done. And I couldn’t be prouder. But at the end of the day, we’re going to build a great company. We are building a great company, but we’re doing it in the most difficult of circumstances, the most challenging of environments. We will be stronger for it in the end.
Kelly: Yeah, I think there’s not much you can throw at us after this that we can’t handle in the future.
Joe: I think that’s exactly right. And I think there’s a shared experience that we have of standing this company up, doing it. I said to somebody the other day, we’re retooling the plane as we’re flying it. We just happen to be flying it in a hurricane. Yeah, but we are. And that’s the thing that’s exciting. Nothing seems to be too much for this team.
Kelly: So, speaking of resilient people and employees, let’s talk about our people. We talk about how asset management is a people business. This was ultimately a transaction that is about people. So, let’s talk about the team.
Joe: Look, I think, again, as we’re evolving and as we’re building Allspring into the company not just that we can be but the company we need to be, it’s all about the people, right? And it’s about the people who are here and have been here for many years and who are incredible professionals and combining them with people that we need to add and capabilities that we didn’t bring over with us from Wells, but new capabilities that we need and people that we need to fill those roles and making sure that those cultures come together and they evolve together. It was interesting. One of our colleagues made the comment, actually, Katie Parenti, our head of HR, as we were in a team meeting, that I don’t see anybody here that looks like central casting. And I love that expression because I think what we have are real people who are here, coming in every day, getting their hands dirty, doing the work. There’s nobody who thinks they’re above anybody else. They’re part of the team. And Matt Wren, our head of technology, likes to say there is no them, only us. And so we own it, right? We own this company. We own the outcome for our clients. We own the culture. We’re very protective of that. So every single person we bring in, we make sure, are they going to be additive? Are they going to help and improve our culture and not detract from it? And I think part of building this new company is evolving our culture, as well.
Kelly: So, I think many, many people would say that you’ve had a long and storied successful career.
Joe: Are you saying I’m old?
Kelly: (laughs) I’m not saying you’re old. A storied career in many different roles. Many parts of the industry. You’ve had amazing success. Why Allspring? What’s driving you to be here?
Joe: So, you know, Kelly, that I love quotes, right?
Kelly: Yes, I do.
Joe: And serendipitously, sometimes a quote appears and one appeared today that I think captures it because I had a lot of thoughts on this question. You and I talked about this. And this quote appeared that I got today and it’s from James Baldwin. I don’t know if you know James Baldwin, but he was an author, an African American author, who talked a lot about some of the struggles that our African American people over the years have dealt with. And so anyway, he wrote an amazing quote that really sums it up. And the quote goes like this: “Once you realize that you can do something, it would be difficult to live with yourself if you didn’t do it.” And that’s how I think about Allspring and the opportunity that we have to really take this company, which is at scale, and transform it, consistent with our mission, anchored in our mission of elevating investing to be worth more. We get to transform this company and make it into what it can be and what it needs to be if we’re really going to achieve that mission. And I think to miss this opportunity would be a tragic waste. It’s why I came in. I think this is one of these once-in-a-career opportunities to build something. And that’s why I came. That’s why every single person that we’ve added has come to be part of the build. They don’t come for who we are today. Who we are today is fine. Who we will be tomorrow, what we can build, and what we can become because we have the ability to do that and transform. And people expect that. Our employees expect it. Our clients expect it. Our owners expect it and we expect it. And so we have this opportunity. We don’t want to miss it. I don’t think we could live with ourselves if we didn’t do it. And that’s why I’m here. And that’s why I think you stayed and other people stayed and why other people come.
Kelly: Yeah, I love the concept of no regrets and this really is an incredibly unique opportunity.
Joe: It’s a no-regrets opportunity.
Kelly: Well, thank you for joining me, Joe.
Joe: My pleasure.
Kelly: That wraps up this episode of On the Trading Desk®. If you’d like to read more market insights and investment perspectives from Allspring Global Investments, you can find them at our firm’s website, allspringglobal.com. To stay connected to On the Trading Desk® and listen to past and future episodes of the program, you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Kelly Vives and thanks for listening.