Category: Associate Development and Engagement, Client Forum

5 Minutes with Tracy Shelby: An Interview with Boston Financial’s Chief Relationship Officer


The chief relationship officer of the industry’s largest third party, full-service transfer agent discusses customer relations and client engagement.

Biography of Tracy Shelby    t-shelby_take-5-post

Career Highlights:

Chief Relationship Officer, Boston Financial Data Services (present)
Responsible for relationship management teams supporting more than 90 mutual fund clients with over 15 million shareholder accounts. Oversees Boston Financial’s marketing department and internal sales team. Serves as the executive responsible for the firm’s Kansas City, Missouri office. Member of Boston Financial’s executive leadership team.

Administrative Officer, Business Process Solutions, DST Systems
Oversaw North American client services, global strategic alliances, and global professional services with responsibility for operations in the U.S., UK, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Member of NICSA and ICI
Frequently serves as a speaker and moderator for internal and external events as well as a spokesman for Boston Financial on mutual fund industry topics.

Education: Graduated from Rice University and earned a BS in Electrical Engineering

Interesting Fact: Co-inventor of a process awarded a U.S. patent for a method of securely processing confidential information.

Tell me about a presentation or event you’ve attended recently that still has you thinking.

Our Client Forum was a few weeks ago, so it’s still fresh in my mind. What jumps out at me isn’t so much a particular session, but rather the overall collaboration and communication among Boston Financial and our clients throughout the event.

You’d be surprised at how many clients describe this as one of their main reasons for attending the Forum year after year. Think about it from their perspective. They get to spend time truly getting to know their relationship manager; our executive team, and other key Boston Financial personnel in a comfortable setting —be at a break between sessions, at dinner, or another social event.

As you’d guess, this cuts both ways. As someone who occasionally has to deliver a difficult message to a client, it’s much easier to have a hard conversation with someone whom you’ve gotten to know outside of a pure work environment, and who, hopefully, likes you as a person even if they may not like what you’re telling them at that particular moment.

Hanging out with the Boston Financial team is not the biggest benefit of the Forum for our clients though. While we get several new client attendees each year, there is a pretty large group of clients who return year after year. So there is a certain degree of predictability in who will be at the Forum; this is really valuable to our clients. They’ve developed friendships with many of their peers and count on our Forum to provide a venue for them to catch up, both socially and professionally.

These aren’t just my perspectives. We hear this same feedback —the value of seeing friends, both from Boston Financial and other clients— each year in our Client Forum surveys. I also believe our client community is a big reason why Boston Financial enjoys such long-term, positive client relationships.

As Chief Relationship Officer at Boston Financial, what’s one of the things you share with members of your team when it comes to client relations?

Once you’ve spent some years in a client-facing role in our industry, you realize you see a lot of the same faces. Over time, those faces will change roles and sometimes change companies. You simply never know when you’ll end up working with, or for, someone whose career you’ve crossed paths with many times.

I look back to my early days at DST when I would occasionally be asked to attend industry events and conferences. I met a lot of people, who were, like me, at various stages of their careers —working at client firms, competitors, or other parts of the DST enterprise. Over time, all our careers evolved. Many of those same people who I’ve kept up with through industry events are now, like me, in more senior roles in their organizations. And, as I mentioned earlier, these trusted relationships are a big part of our ability to maintain and build our business.

My simple advice on client relations is a take on the proverbial “golden rule.” Be nice and help people throughout your career. You never know where you, or your business contacts/friends, will end up in the future. And the people you meet early in your career often turn out to be important business relationships, great friends or, hopefully, both. It really is all about trust.

Can you elaborate on how you think about client engagement at Boston Financial?

I’ll probably talk forever on this one. Ok, so two things come to mind. First, we put a lot of time and thought into the composition of our relationship team and how it aligns with each given client. And, when I say “client,” I mean both the company that has hired us and the individuals at that company who have been chosen to work with our team. This is most obvious when Boston Financial signs a new client, but there are also recent examples of when we’ve made a change in our relationship team based on personnel or other changes at a client.

On the “company” side of the relationship, we obviously have to make sure our team members understand the type of financial products offered by that client —institutional, retail, money market, 529, etc. We also look at things like the client’s oversight style, the geographical location of the client’s office, and other what I would call “fact-based” components. Although these aspects are important, they’re also fairly obvious things to consider when forming a relationship team.

I think our “special sauce,” if you will, is a focus on the “people” side of the relationship, specifically on trying to ensure good personal chemistry between our RMs and the individuals at the client firm with whom they face off. It’s really important to us that the individuals on the client side personally like the members of their relationship team and our team likes the people on the client side. We have a pretty good track record in this area. You can see it in our clients’ willingness and desire to spend time with members of our relationship and management teams outside of work —be it at dinners, industry events, or our Boston Financial Forums.

If personnel changes occur on the client side, we make a practice, often quietly, of reassessing our team to make sure we still have the right makeup. When we do make changes in our RM client assignments, we work hard to ensure that the affected Boston Financial associates understand that the change isn’t performance-based.

One last thing on my overall perspective on client engagement: We strive to create an environment in which our relationship managers can succeed in their roles by developing trust with their customers.colorful_gears_business

I try to have a leadership style in which I empower people to make decisions versus creating an environment in which Terry (CEO and president of Boston Financial) or I have to approve everything. My experience before Boston Financial has shown me that clients quickly figure out if all decisions are being made by senior management. This type of environment leads a client to trust their relationship team less and always challenge their decisions, unless a senior executive was personally in the meeting.

At Boston Financial, we do our very best to allow our RMs to represent our firm with the client throughout all phases of the relationship. That’s not to say that there isn’t behind the scenes collaboration between the RM and the senior team. That takes place all the time. It’s important that clients understand that our RMs speak for Boston Financial, and we entrust them to make decisions. I think this trust in our team is a huge part of why customers like working with Boston Financial.



Colleen Sebastian

Colleen Sebastian

Colleen has been with Boston Financial for 15 years, having held positions in client relations and operations. In her current position, she develops and executes marketing and communication strategies that accelerate business growth, build brand awareness, and strengthen employee engagement. Colleen holds a Masters of Business Administration from Northeastern University and is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire. A snow sport enthusiast, Colleen has been a volunteer for the Youth Enrichment Services’ (YES) winter program and still gets excited every winter for the first snowflakes of the season. Follow Colleen on Twitter @colleen_sebas.

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