To celebrate Allspring’s second anniversary, Joe Sullivan, chief executive officer, and Kelly Vives, chief marketing officer, discuss where Allspring started, where it’s been, and where it’s headed in 2024 and beyond.
Joe Sullivan: It’s really quite a remarkable story that not many, if anyone else, in the industry can tell. And I think that’s exciting.
Kelly Vives: That’s Joe Sullivan, CEO of Allspring. And I’m Kelly Vives, chief marketing officer, and you’re listening to On The Trading Desk®. Allspring is celebrating our second anniversary this month since becoming an independent company. I’m here with Joe to discuss where we started, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. Thanks for being here, Joe.
Joe: My pleasure. Thanks, Kelly.
Kelly: So, I wanted to start first with coming up with one word that you would use to describe the past two years at Allspring.
Joe: Really, Kelly? I mean, me? One word?
Kelly: It’s a challenge.
Joe: Look, I think any of us could pull any number of words we could think about. Persistence is a word that comes to mind. Foundation. Momentum. Perspective is a word that comes to mind two years in. But candidly, I think probably the most accurate word would be challenging. And I know some people think of that as a negative word. I don’t think of it as such. I think when you think about a challenge, great people rise to the occasion of a challenge. It’s always a challenge to focus on clients. We do that first and foremost. But to do so in the midst of markets that have been incredibly challenging, the industry continues to change and all the dynamics around it, our own specific situation being the separation from Wells Fargo and the stand-up as an independent company, yeah, I think challenging would be the best word.
Kelly: So, you cheated and that was like 10 words. But I agree with challenging.
Joe: I told you there’s no shot I can answer something with one word.
Kelly: No, challenging is right and I feel it. And I always say it’s been the most challenging, probably, two years of my career but also the most rewarding. Can you tell us one thing that has surprised you since we’ve become Allspring?
Joe: I think if there’s one thing that I am most awed by, and I would say I’m awed every day by this, is the resilience of the people of Allspring. I think you and I have talked about this before, Kelly, but I think we’ve learned that there’s pretty much nothing you can throw at us that we can’t handle. And I think that speaks to the toughness and the resilience of our team at Allspring.
Kelly: Yeah. And I think it makes the team stronger. I mean, I can certainly speak for our leadership team with what we’ve been through together with carving out of Wells and standing up a new business. It just brings you closer together and I think it’ll make us have more possibilities as a team in the future.
Joe: Totally agree.
Kelly: You shared when we chatted about a year ago that you had discussed taking on this role with your wife. And as you know, our families are here. They’re on the sidelines watching. They’re rooting for us. But I’m interested, how would Suzie describe the past couple of years?
Joe: You know, it’s been interesting. First of all, she’s met a number of the people on my team. Kelly, you’ve met her. And I think she loves what I love, which is how genuine and how authentic and what just good people we have at Allspring. And there’s no pretense. I mean, I don’t find anybody that sort of puts on airs. I don’t see any pretense. And Suzie’s a down-to-earth kind of person. So, I think she right away has got a sense for the integrity and the quality and the authenticity of our team. She’ll comment to me and she’ll mention to me periodically, wow. Like, the determination and the commitment, the dedication of the people of Allspring, that they’re just constantly grinding. They’re constantly powering through challenging situations. Everybody gets thrown curveballs, not just at Allspring, everywhere. I think she’s just really impressed by, like I said, the determination, the tenacity, the grit of the people of Allspring. So, your turn. What would you say? How would your family respond to that question?
Kelly: As you know, Joe, I have three young kids, and I like to make the joke that Allspring is like my fourth child. And if you think about raising kids, the days are very long, but the years are short. And reflecting that it’s been two really quick years, really rewarding years, peaks, valleys, small wins, big wins, but it’s been worth it. And my kids are like, “Mommy loves Allspring” because I wear my gear and I had my umbrella this morning when I dropped them off at school. So, as I said, they’re rooting for us, which is a good feeling.
Joe: By the way, I think a lot of people are rooting for us. We’ve talked about that, right? Like not just our families and our friends and one another, but I see that with clients a lot. Clients frequently will communicate with me, sometimes directly, but also through email or things like that, where they’ll say, you guys have a really cool opportunity there. Make it happen. Make it happen.
Kelly: Yeah. So, let’s talk about clients. I mean, I think taking a look back, is there something you can share that you’re most proud of as it relates to how we work with our clients or something that stands out?
Joe: One of the things we kind of self-describe ourselves is as a startup at scale. And I know not everybody loves that term or whatever, but I use it oftentimes with clients because I want them to understand that on the one hand, we are big enough to matter. We are a scaled investment management company. So, we’re big enough to matter, but we’re also small enough to change and to evolve and to customize. And that’s the key message. I tell people, tell clients as I’m meeting with them, this is the startup piece. Like we get to, as we’re reshaping and re-architecting Allspring, we can do so in a way that is more client-centric than just forcing people into systems and business processes that have been in place for years and years and years. We’re re-architecting it and we can do so with clients in mind and in a way that will allow us to more readily customize for clients. And that’s really attractive. And I have found that when I kind of talk about this notion of being a startup at scale, that engages clients more like, well, how could we do that together? Exactly. That’s the conversation I want to have. Like, not here’s the five pager with how you engage with Allspring. No, we can create that together. And I think clients are looking for something different. And I believe that is the essence of Allspring that we are creating something different, but we’re doing it starting with our clients in mind. So, that’s why I think they’re cheering for us. I think they want something different. They see us offering the promise of that.
Kelly: You’ve talked about our people a little bit and I think resilience is a really important word. How do you think the organization has evolved since we became Allspring on November 1 two years ago? How do we feel now compared to then?
Joe: I think we’ve grown and I think we’ve matured. You think about all that we’ve done through historically challenging markets. I mean, our first full year as Allspring was one of the worst years in the industry ever, even going back to the Great Financial Crisis. And notwithstanding that, in those markets and even at a time when the industry continues to evolve and change, we’ve separated from our former parent, we’ve stood up a new and independent firm, and we’ve also begun to grow again. And that’s what’s really exciting. It’s really quite a remarkable story that not many, if anyone else, in the industry can tell. And I think that’s exciting.
Kelly: Yeah, I think it’s been great that we’ve had the opportunity to merge the culture of the folks that joined from Wells with the opportunity to hire some new people in different types of functions. And the merging of those cultures, I think, has created something really special both at the leadership team and even on my own team and just seeing what the new people can bring and what the history and the heritage of what the people that were there for a long time can bring. I think it makes for a really strong team.
Joe: Kelly, you’re onto something really important. I think it’s all in the pursuit of building something new, of building something better, and, I like to say, of building something consequential, something that will mean something not just now but mean something long into the future. That’s what we’re trying to do in creating Allspring. Let’s put it this way. No one is here, whether they come from Wells Fargo Asset Management or are new to our team, no one is here for what they had. Everyone is here for what we can be and what we will be. It’s fun to watch the merging of people with a legacy and with perspective and history and institutional memory and knowledge and blending that with fresh eyes. And that combination, if it’s well managed, I think it can be really powerful. Knowing where we came from but knowing, with some fresh eyes, maybe where we need to go and blending that, I think could be pretty powerful.
Kelly: Yeah. And with fresh eyes, too, I think comes some expertise. I mean, I continue to learn every day with the different experts that we’ve brought in as well, on the investment side, on my team. So, I’m loving just continuing to push my own boundaries in terms of learning.
Joe: Me, too.
Kelly: So, now, big question. What’s next? What’s next for Allspring?
Joe: You know, as I think about our next year in 2024, I just have a great, great sense of confidence, not just coming from all that we’ve accomplished but also what I see as the opportunity before us. And I sense that everyone in our organization kind of has this sense like it’s right in front of us and it’s time to go get it. And we have the opportunity, as we have had for the last few years, to bring this extraordinary investment platform to clients. And there are many places, many places, especially in fixed income, as I look forward right now, at a time when clients are focused on fixed income or fixed income is more attractive than it’s been in a decade and a half or more, two decades. So, clients are focused there, it’s more attractive, and we have an incredible fixed income breadth and capability. I’m really excited about 2024 in terms of the launching into who we can become as a company.
Kelly: So, as we wrap up, earlier we talked about the one-word challenge to describe the past couple of years. I’m interested if you could pick a word to describe the next five years, what would that word be?
Joe: OK. Well, I’m just going to decline to use one word. Again, it’s just not in my nature. You know that by now.
Kelly: I do.
Joe: Now, look, I think the broad concept of how I would think about that is adapt or evolve or change. Maybe that’s the word. Maybe change is the word. And I know people get tired of it and they have change fatigue. I hear that all the time. But the winners of the future, and I believe this passionately, the winners of the future will be those firms that can most quickly adapt, can most quickly evolve, and can most quickly change. In change, there are almost always winners and losers. And it’s a question of will you create that change? Will you choose your change? Or will you be one of those that are constantly trying to catch up to the change and react to the change? We want to be the former. We want to be the disruptors. We want to create the change. We want to choose our change. If we define it, change can be our best friend. And that’s the beauty of change. I think about that being Allspring. I think it’s about us choosing our change and making change work for us, not working against us. So, that’s what I think about for the next five years.
Kelly: And something we haven’t talked about today, and I think a lot of what is encapsulated in some of your answers, is our mission, which is to elevate investing to be worth more. You and I are the biggest cheerleaders of the mission internally. But I think a lot of what you discussed today really shows how we’re planning to do that, not just the words.
Joe: And I think that’s why our clients are cheering for us, right? We truly want to elevate investing to be worth more. For whom? For our clients and in ways that they value and in ways that mean more to them. And we are committed to delivering on that.
Kelly: Well, Joe, thank you for helping us celebrate two years of Allspring.
Joe: I know, it’s amazing, right? Long days, short years.
Kelly: Yup. As we head into the next two and beyond, I think it’s important to recognize the tremendous growth we’ve achieved while always continuing to look around the corner for our clients. There’s a lot to be proud of and a lot more to accomplish. Thanks to our listeners for joining us On the Trading Desk® and happy anniversary, Allspring.
Announcer: Visit allspringglobal.com to receive more market insights and investment perspectives from Allspring Global Investments. To hear the latest from our thought leaders on the ever-changing investment landscape, you can subscribe to the program on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening and joining us on the road to investing elevated.