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How a $592 Billion Investment Firm Relocated its Headquarters to Nashville

Nov 15, 2019
CAO Kate Burke discussed AllianceBernstein and its recent move to Nashville during the Distinguished Speaker Series

By Jong Eun Jung

As a Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of AllianceBernstein (AB), Kate Burke is one of the front-line leaders overseeing the investment firm’s relocation from New York City to Nashville. While the relocation is still underway, it has been a multi-year project that has helped to define the culture of the organization and involved significant strategic planning.

Kate Burke at DSS

Kate Burke at DSS

Burke spoke at Vanderbilt Business on October 16 as part of the Distinguished Speakers Series (DSS). DSS are a series of talks hosted by Dean Eric Johnson where high-profile speakers share their business insights on topics such as leadership and economic trends. These talks are open to all students, faculty, and staff at Vanderbilt.

After providing an overview of AB and the firm’s services, Burke explained the strategic rationale behind the move of its headquarters. Here is a summary of her talk:

About AllianceBernstein

AllianceBernstein is a $592 billion investment firm with more than three thousand employees in 25 countries and 51 cities. The company aspires to be one of the most trusted investment advisors in the world. With this vision in mind, AB, using its research-based practice, focuses on creating a positive experience for clients. “We believe in investment processes that enable us to achieve better outcomes, where integrity is at the forefront. We’re fiduciaries for our clients and firmly believe in the highest ethical standards,” Burke said.

On the buy side, AB delivers a range of investment strategies to its clients, including fixed income, multi asset, equities, and alternatives, which are distributed through its retail, institutional and private wealth channel. On the sell side, Bernstein Research Services provides investment research designed for investment managers, hedge funds, endowments, and foundations. In her role as CAO, Burke is responsible for the corporate and fiduciary elements, which include finance, human capital, legal, operations and technology, and internal audit.

The Big Move

After weighing a number of factors, AB concluded that it would begin a nationwide search to relocate its headquarters. As a research-oriented firm, AB made certain that their plan would be backed by adequate data. They talked to more than 30 firms who had conducted major office relocations about topics such as culture transition risk. They also scheduled city visits and observed the characteristics of each location. “We focused around what was culturally important to us, which was our diverse population in New York. We wanted to move to a city and find a community in which (our employees) would feel comfortable,” Burke said.

AB not only conducted data analysis on the talent pool and labor market, but also weighed factors like the quality of life and climate. The firm also visited local community organizations to better understand the city as a whole. Evaluating all these combined factors, AB chose Nashville as its new location.

“We consistently kept hearing, here in Nashville, just how much people recognized the positives and the challenges of what the city was going through, and there was a collective responsibility to solve it and that… was very appealing, because not only did that align well with our corporate values, but it also let us see that we can come here and be a good corporate citizen as well,” Burke said.

Currently, AllianceBernstein is hiring in Nashville and reaching out to create partnerships in the community, with Vanderbilt Business being one of them. To learn more about the investment firm, visit its website.

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