Head of Corporate and Institutional Solutions

Chelsea Smith

I treat organizations like people

Most firms do not take the time to understand the needs of institutions. Bernstein’s deep discovery process helps me to learn why organizations exist and what they care most about. From there, I can give them the resources they need to be successful.

What inspired you to join Bernstein?

Bernstein’s culture allows me to be 100% Chelsea and a role model to other women of color in the industry.

During business school, a Black woman suggested that I explore financial services. I started in equity sales trading and had to steel myself to fit into the tough, intense culture. After sell- and buy-side trading experiences, I went into asset management working exclusively with global family offices and foundations. I fought with my own internal thoughts, and I suspect, those of my colleagues, would wealthy families want to work with me? George Floyd made it so that I could no longer be silent. Holding back wasn’t helping. I started to develop my true voice talking about discrimination. I also decided that I wanted to work at a firm where I would be acknowledged, heard and valued for my 20 years of expertise. When I interviewed with Bernstein, I no longer had to hide. Instead, I was able to take on a leadership role and use my profile to elevate other Black women.

Tell me about the types of clients you work with.

In my newly created leadership role, I am committed to driving growth across Bernstein’s institutional clients like foundations, nonprofits, endowments, 401(k) plans and cash balance plans. My hope is to double the number of institutions that we serve and generate as much impact as possible. By bringing my vast financial services experience, fresh ideas, creativity and curiosity to the table, I aim to positively influence the people these institutions serve—and the communities that surround them.

I am grateful and excited that Bernstein sees the importance of this role, which allows me to take a 30,000 square-foot view of the following: resources we can leverage, models to develop and strategies to help organizations increase donor engagement and retention. By taking the time to understand clients and think from a participant standpoint, the hope is to truly understand their needs. Every day I ask myself, how can I bolster the Bernstein brand to provide fruitful futures for others?

How have your values and background uniquely positioned you to work with clients?

Growing up middle class, my parents helped me, and my triplet sisters cultivate our values through volunteering: gratitude, curiosity, education, community and compassion. I vividly remember our six afro puffs pressing against the windows of dad’s orange Datsun B-210 during an “outside of the classroom” exercise. Dad drove us to volunteer in underserved communities where we saw the stark difference between our own predominantly White suburban setting. The juxtaposition left an indelible mark and ignited a passion for helping others through physical acts like tutoring and mentoring. Today, both of my sisters are physicians and leaders in pediatrics and geriatrics serving underserved communities. I lean into my passion for helping foundations make a lengthy impact on their communities. It is wonderful that we are all able to uphold our father’s philosophy: No matter how well you are doing, always give back.