UpClose: Meet BBH Principal Manuel Dienhart

November 13, 2023
BBH’s profile series, “UpClose,” provides a professional and personal glimpse into BBH’s leaders and how they think of varied topics.

BBH’s series, “UpClose,” provides a professional and personal glimpse into the firm’s leaders. Through candid conversation, we learn more about how they think about everything from instilling BBH culture in their work and with their teams, to maintaining perspective and a sense of humor in any situation.

In this installment, we feature an interview with Principal, Manuel (Manny) Dienhart. Manny is the Product Executive and Global Head of Transfer Agency (TA). He is a director on the board of BBH Fund Administration Services Ireland and BBH Luxembourg S.C.A. where he is a member of the Authorized Management team too. Manny talked with us about decision-making, his career and the things he values in teams.

What do you think helps both teams and individuals deliver?
Clarity of role and a clear purpose, both for your own role and that of your broader team, leads to knowing how each individual contribution impacts the overall goal. It seems simple, but it’s not always easy to make happen. As a leader, I see it as my responsibility to create that clarity – setting the strategy and helping people understand what they need to do to deliver. In doing so, I start by being clear on facts we know and what we can control, but also sharing what we don’t know, so we can problem solve as a team. Throughout that process, I work to create a safe space for people to share their views with conviction—no question or idea is off the table. When everyone understands their role, both at an individual and team level, and is part of the solution it is much easier to be successful – as it creates ownership on every level, leading to superior results. That doesn’t mean your contribution won’t change and evolve as you achieve and deliver, it means leaders must be clear on what that evolution looks like and what that means for people who are contributing to the end goal – it’s a constant conversation.

How would you describe your style?
I’m passionate, results-driven and team-oriented - focused on designing solutions that both our clients and the business need. Integrity and trust are paramount to building strong, long-lasting relationships both internally and with clients. I try my best to be an open book and I am a firm believer that diverse views and perspectives deliver better outcomes. I want all voices to be heard.
I love working on the new, different or complex, which means it’s very important to me that the occasional failure is always seen as an opportunity to learn and develop. Part of that learning is reflecting on yourself and understanding if the failure was a design flaw, an execution error or due to another factor – like cultural or style differences. For example, I am German and can be very direct, so sometimes my intent may be misunderstood if you don’t know me or if I’m not being self-aware. To be a more effective leader and to get the best from people, I may need to adapt my approach, depending on who is in the room, while remaining true to myself.

What does good team culture look like?
Good team culture is supportive in pursuit of continuous improvement. It’s an environment where people are clear about what they are working towards and the role they play, both as an individual and as part of a broader team. High performing teams with good cultures drive towards expected outcomes together, constantly learning and supporting each other. Clarity of role and strategy set the goals, but culture is what delivers – as the saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” What that means is even the best strategy won’t be successfully executed if your team hasn’t bought into the vision. Strong cultures value individual contributions, personal strengths, constructive feedback, diversity of thought, engagement, collaboration, and effective implementation – this is what creates powerful solutions. Importantly, in a good culture, there’s no spirit of individualism at the team’s expense. Cultures like this reach a point where it becomes somewhat self-regulating – some people will buy-in and thrive and a small number may find it’s not for them and that’s okay. Ultimately, I want the best people possible working with me, and I strongly believe our culture within TA is a great retention tool. It’s taken time, hard work and commitment across the team, but it’s working well. As we evolve, I believe we will continue to see the benefits of our solid, deliberate, global cultural base acting as one Global TeAm (our acronym for the “TA team”). Culturally, our people, together with our technology, are what enable us to deliver best-in-class service to our clients and their investors, while consistently protecting our clients and the bank from the risks associated with TA.

What advice would you give your younger self?
There are a few things I’d want young Manny to know. I focused too much on perfection, always going to the nth degree with everything – that was unnecessary ambition and in many cases a waste of energy. I’d recommend being more open to understanding who you really are, so you can use that self-awareness as a strength. I’d tell him to make time to relax and do the things that help you unwind - that it’s important for your well-being, your problem-solving ability, and your creativity. I’d also say afford yourself the opportunity to swing easy more often – as a passionate golfer I can tell you, if your mind is relaxed, you get better results.

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