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Goldberg Oversees Growth of NICSA


In 1990, Bob Goldberg was ready to retire from John Hancock of Boston. He had served as vice president, secretary and treasurer of John Hancock distributors and was instrumental in developing the company's mutual fund business. But Goldberg was not quite ready for a life of leisure. So, he accepted the challenge of becoming the first president of the National Investment Company Service Association of Wellesley, Mass.

The challenge was considerable. When he was named president, Goldberg was NICSA's only full-time staff member and although the organization was firmly established, there was much to be done to improve it, Goldberg said.

"We always had a meeting planner who ran the association" he said. "So, the meeting planner was only concerned about the meetings and never knew anyone in the industry. So when I came in, I knew people in the industry and we started to talk to people about becoming members."

While NICSA's mission of being a source of information and a promoter of the exchange of ideas in the industry has not changed, the scope of its operations has grown dramatically under Goldberg's leadership. The organization started in the early 1960's with 21 members. When Goldberg was named president, NICSA had approximately 120 member organizations. Today, there are 406 member organizations representing nearly 2,500 individual members. Also since 1990, NICSA has evolved from a one-person operation to seven currently. It is now an influential source of information whose company membership is international and represents over $3 trillion in assets under management.

Goldberg's involvement with NICSA began in 1969 when he was working for John Hancock, helping the company establish its mutual fund business. As a John Hancock member of NICSA, Goldberg served on various NICSA committees and attended the organization's conferences. In the early 1980's, Goldberg became the organization's voluntary chairman.

By 1990, Goldberg was serving as the organization's executive director. NICSA was looking for a full-time staff member who could dedicate all of his time to developing the organization. Goldberg was looking for something to do in his retirement from Fidelity.

The early years on the job were difficult. At John Hancock, Goldberg had a huge budget with which to work. But, like most non-profit organizations, NICSA's resources were limited.

"We operated in small quarters because we didn't want to spend much on rent," Goldberg said. "We started out by buying all used furniture and we really scrounged around for everything. We had one laptop that was outdated. Then we bought some computers and a member company gave us some computers. It was a very different place." Actually, when Goldberg became president, NICSA had no office space of its own. MFS Investment Management of Boston donated a corner of one of its offices for the organization. Now, NICSA operates out of a 2,500 square foot office suite.

Despite the organization's growth throughout the 1990's, NICSA's budgets still require creativity, Goldberg said.

"It's an interesting thing coming from Hancock where budgets were measured in large numbers," he said. "Here, we deal with small numbers and try to get as much done as we can. We try to be more innovative, we try to be more creative."

The organization's resources are often obtained from NICSA members in exchange for services-in-kind.

"When we first thought of having a website about three years ago, people were saying it would cost $35,000 to $100,000," said Goldberg. "So, we got a hold of some people and said we can do some of the work if you'll do some of the work and on that basis we have a pretty effective website and we're up to 70 thousand hits a month."

Similarly, when Goldberg had to travel to Japan to negotiate an alliance with Japan's fund industry and NICSA could not cover the airfare, Goldberg got a reduced fare by offering the airline free advertising in NICSA's meeting programs.

An even more important resource is the time and knowledge NICSA's membership provides, Goldberg said.

"We rely on their industry expertise and there is no way we could do what we do without them," he said. "They work very hard and they have other jobs and they don't get any checks from us. So keeping them motivated to respond is always important. They are torn different ways by virtue of what their own jobs require and they are all very busy people." If NICSA were to place all of its volunteers on its payrolls, it would spend close to $3 million a year, Goldberg said.

Even though NICSA operates with a tight budget, the organization's growth has allowed Goldberg to add staff members. The staff runs twenty-five meetings a year worldwide.

"To put it in perspective, we're going to have 750 people at the Florida meeting in February," said Goldberg. "We'll run that meeting with four people. If you think about it, that puts it in the category of each person being responsible for 170 people."

As the fund industry has grown overseas, Goldberg has expanded NICSA's scope and has forged alliances with fund organizations in Ireland, Japan and Luxembourg. Joint conferences have been held with the Luxembourg Investment Funds Association, the Dublin Funds Industry Association and the Kenzai Institute of Tokyo as a result. Those relationships have helped foster business between these countries, Goldberg said.

"There is a large potential, some $13 trillion, in the Japanese market," Goldberg said. "And Dublin and Luxembourg are financial centers and operational centers and it serves their purpose to bring American companies there and have European companies talk about processes and their benefits. It's just a mutual exchange of ideas."