Yes, Pepper is her real name — not a stage or professional name, or even a nickname. She was Pepper Lindsley at the time of her birth, named in remembrance of her grandmother, who had passed away a few years prior, and whose surname was Pepper.
She never thought Pepper was an unusual name because she grew up in rural Philadelphia with many family members whose surnames were Pepper.
“I was just one more Pepper,” she says.
When she got to college everyone knew and remembered her name for its rarity. And, professionally, she has always been able to call clients and simply identify herself as Pepper to get instant recognition.
No one ever mentioned Pepper Anderson of the landmark TV program Police Woman, starring Angie Dickinson until she married Carl Anderson and took his last name.
“I love it,” she says of the association with Angie Dickinson and her character. “As a character, talk about female empowerment, so what’s not to love.”
She considers it a side benefit that it makes her just a bit more difficult to Google because the Pepper Anderson of Angie Dickinson fame comes up as a Wikipedia profile before you get to the CEO of Chilton Trust Co.
But I digress.
Pepper Anderson — Chilton Trust star with the J.P. Morgan Chase pedigree — has been toting a hot hand, though it has to do with her management and investment chops rather than a police-issued sidearm.
LEARNING TO SAY ‘YES’
One of Anderson’s eureka moments occurred when, as an associate at J.P. Morgan, she attended a career panel discussion at a women’s event and one on the panelists said her success was essentially attributable to “saying yes.” Initially, Anderson considered the comment an oversimplification, but ultimately had a clearer realization of what the panelist was conveying.
“Every time someone would ask me to take on a different role or work on a different project, I tended to think, ‘why in the world would you pick me?’” Anderson recalls. “It was because someone was seeing a different aspect in me.”More formally, Anderson benefited from the advice or guidance of three chief mentors during her career — each very different from one another, but all helping to shape her professional career.
The first mentor gave Anderson confidence by pressing her into duties she did not consider herself qualified to do.
“During the first presentation I ever did, she basically walked out of the room as we were walking in,” Anderson recounts. “She left me in charge, knowing that I was prepared. She ripped the band-aid right off.”
The second mentor taught her good leadership skills, including how to give meaningful feedback and make hard decisions.
“He was my manager through the financial crisis, and there were some really painful decisions that had to be made,” she remembers. “He helped me understand that is part of effective leadership.”
The third brought the virtues of open-mindedness to Anderson.
“We argued about a lot of strategic plans and the vision and how to get there, but ultimately we were also really good friends, so we had a very open and healthy dialogue about it. But I realized that I was sometimes coming into the discussions already having decided what the answer was before I got enough information.”
All three of the mentors also provided helpful counsel to Anderson while she was weighing the decision to leave J.P. Morgan Chase after 22 years to join Chilton Trust and take the helm as CEO.
“I am probably a patchwork quilt of attributes I learned from each of them.”
ALL THAT JAZZ
Anderson grew up outside Philadelphia, basically the halfway point between Philly and Wilmington, Del., an area referred to as The Main Line. Her home was far enough from urbanity to accommodate a barn and horses. She was outside most of the day, giving Anderson a sense of adventure and imagination.
By age 17 she was interested in warmer climes, and that influenced her decision to attend Tulane University, where she became a member of the student body known as the Green Wave. An even bigger influencer was time spent Spain during high school, her fluency in Spanish and interest in history.
“I started thinking about Latin American studies and Tulane had, and still has, a very strong program,” she says.
A lot of history and economics classes were part of her curriculum.
There was no specific career in mind during her collegiate years, seeking instead to broaden her horizons, and take advantage of Tulane’s proximity to New Orleans and its melting pot of black, French and Spanish cultures.
“New Orleans is a really unique culture, more than I even appreciated going in — the food and music scene. I grew up playing piano, so music was very much a part of my life,” she says. “In New Orleans you can see amazing performers live in tiny venues, and that was such a different experience from what a lot of my friends had the opportunity to see. Lots of jazz everywhere you went.”
Post-graduation her first job took her to Bear Stearns as an equity trading assistant, despite being unlicensed and having only the most basic requirement: a college degree. It became an eye-opening experience for Anderson to find the leadership at Bear Stearns cared little about what school one graduated from, focusing instead on how well people were performing their duties. Anderson arrived there knowing basically nothing about the markets and admits to not knowing a single one of the many acronyms associated with the financial sector.
“It really toughened me up and made me comfortable being uncomfortable, to use a trite phrase.”
That comports nicely with the characteristics Anderson most ascribes to the altitude her career has gained over these years: open-mindedness and diplomacy.
“Most people’s careers aren’t linear, and for me there were a lot of opportunities that have come up that I would not have chosen or thought that I would be good at. Success, particularly in a leadership context, requires to both hear others and be heard, and you can't do either if the way you think and communicate feels combative,” she explains. “Open-mindedness and diplomacy are two very related things but have different manifestations.”
SOMETIMES IT’S THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
Stage two of Anderson’s career began germinating at a wedding she attended, where she met one of the partners at Meredith, Martin & Kaye, a small firm specializing in fixed-income investing. Anderson and the MMK partner connected on the spot. Anderson took the leap and good fortune struck when MMK was acquired by financial giant UBS, and Anderson’s work evolved from being a jack-of-all-trades to a structured role. But it was her jack-of-all-trades experience at MMK and Bear Stearns that created the foundation for understanding what might be possible and where she would excel.
“So much of one’s early career experiences are about finding out what you are great at, and the environment that sets you up for success. I felt a very tangible difference in my energy when I was able to go outside of my job description, outside of my role.”
Like any organization, UBS is not for everyone — and that included the MMK portfolio manager who had wooed Anderson to the firm. That person decided to decamp for J.P. Morgan shortly after MMK had been acquired by UBS. It was a loss for Anderson who counted the MMK partner as her first real mentor. The separation of the two women was not long lived.
“I went to J.P. Morgan to follow her and become part of the client portfolio management team in fixed income.”
Over time that business grew and the banking industry, and J.P. Morgan, went through many permutations, some of which led Anderson to join Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. with a personnel roster 25,000 strong. By the time she left to join Chilton Trust, J.P. Morgan had become J.P. Morgan Chase and had a quarter-of-a-million people on its payroll.
But let’s not get ahead of this timeline. During her 22-year stint at J.P. Morgan Chase she came into direct contact with the banking goliath’s redoubtable CEO, Jamie Dimon.
“He is a great example to me of how important it is to think about your own personal brand,” says Anderson. “The amazing thing about him is that it trickles all the way through the company, and very few people have the ability to have that kind of outsized personal impact on others. I found it very motivating. People always talk about how, as a leader, you should cast a wide shadow, and it is something you have to work and be consistent about.”
Anderson switched away from fixed income after about 10 years at the bank, during the early days of the global financial crisis. She had approached her manager — another of her mentors — to explain she was feeling a little stale after so many years in the fixed-income space and needed to “get uncomfortable” again, maybe even “get over my skis a bit.” He laughed at her characterizations but obliged. The organization had just gone through the merger with Chase and a lot of integration was on the agenda. Anderson was given a series of different and interesting leadership roles on the investment side, and ultimately segued into becoming manager of the bank’s adviser groups.
“I give J.P. Morgan a lot of credit for supporting my growth.”
A SITUATION THAT CLICKED
Anderson had no desire or reason to leave J.P. Morgan Chase, as a repeat caller from an executive search firm discovered when offering her positions at other financial organizations. Anderson appreciated but pushed away years of offers, primarily because she considered J.P. Morgan Chase a “best in class” financial institution and to move to another large but less formidable company did not strike her as compelling.
The calculus changed when the persistent headhunter called one day and positioned the opportunity like so: “I know you always say ‘no,’ but this one you are going to want to think about. You will want to have this meeting.”
Anderson agreed to a meeting with Richard Chilton, founder, chairman and CIO of Chilton Trust Co., who was looking for a new CEO to succeed Garrison duPont Lickle, who moved in the role of vice chairman. The situation clicked for Anderson almost immediately. In Chilton Trust she found a smaller firm at “the perfect intersection of having been around long enough to be well established, but young enough (at 10 years old) to have meaningful opportunity ahead. In Richard Chilton she found a leader who had created a client-focused ethos that resonated with her.
“Every single decision was being made with client's best interest first,” she says. “That came from the top and was the reason Richard Chilton founded the firm.”
Anderson also regarded the timing as opportune, as she was old enough to have credibility, but young enough for the post to represent an exciting new chapter of her career.
“He had told me during the interview process, ‘nothing is broken, there is nothing to fix,’ and I thought, ‘how can that be?’ The reality is that was true, and the opportunity really is to think about growth by just telling our story, thinking strategically about how to expand within our current footprint, as well as new geographies,” Anderson explains. “We should also be challenging ourselves in terms of new services. As a leader, I am not a broken-china type.”
Anderson assumed the CEO’s post at Chilton Trust in July 2019.
VIEWING THE BUSINESS FROM INSIDE OUT
While the growth experienced by Chilton Trust to date has been organic, Anderson says the organization is prepared to very selectively consider acquisitions. The stumbling block, as with so many organizations, is protecting the company culture while simultaneously acculturating the acquired organization in the ways of the acquirer.
“We would consider adding offices near or within our current footprint, most likely in the southeast,” says Anderson, who works from the company’s Manhattan office. “We are very proud of our culture internally. It is sacrosanct, so I can’t necessarily depend on acquisitions as a growth tool.”
The firm was founded on the premise of customization of portfolios calibrated to achieve client goals, rather than fitting them into model portfolios — focusing instead on custom strategies that are long term and absolute return oriented.
Anderson prefaced her next comment by cautioning that, while she considers the vast majority of advisers to be competent and working in the best interests of their clients, she worries the time horizon used for measuring success is potentially mismatched, that clients usually have goals that are longer term than the advisers working for them.
Regarding another aspect of investing timelines, she observes: “I would really hope that advisers feel aligned with their clients and recognize that long-term goals are achieved in short-term increments.” On the flipside, Anderson adds: “I have seen too many times where investors succumb to fear when markets decline, and I have been through those cycles. I have made the behavioral finance mistakes and that helps me to heed my own advice in planning, so I am almost fully in equity as a result.”
Indeed, she cites U.S. equity as her favorite asset class because she likes the transparency, return profile and that she can understand the macro-dynamics driving the market.
CALL OF DUTY
In her role as a leader, Anderson talks of projecting to others what she wants the Chilton Trust ethos to feel like. Besides conveying that message internally, she often visits clients in their offices and homes. Her favorite job duty is meeting with clients on their turf to get a sound sense of their goals and situations.
As CEO, Anderson could easily shun these client interactions, as many chief executives do, and leave those duties to underlings. But she considers aloofness a disadvantage.
“I don’t know how you actually would manage a business to the best of your ability if you aren’t experiencing it yourself. You need to hear directly from clients and, by the way, I think anyone who is successful in this business sees meeting with clients as the fun part of the job. So, part of that is selfish. I really enjoy it. I like problem solving. I like the relationships with people. That is where wealth management is different from other areas of the financial world, it is not just about markets, it is about addressing very sensitive and personal family issues. Being comfortable is important.”
Maybe she isn’t just another Pepper after all.
Mike Consol (email@example.com) is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.