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Lessons Learned: Some of life's similarities

Aug 23, 2023 | Steve Ross


Reflecting on how a farm-to-table experience in Italy mirrors our team's approach to wealth management

image of family eating

My wife Lori recently turned 60-years-old, and like a devoted husband, I said, “What would you like to do for your birthday?” Thinking she would pick a popular restaurant, she blurted out, “Let’s go on a trip with the kids to the Amalfi Coast!” 

This trip was really a “tack on” to our initial destination in Western Ireland where RBC was hosting a four-day event for top advisors and firm management.  I always enjoy meeting advisors from other parts of the country, and this year one younger advisor was curious to know more about The Ross Group. We had a lengthy conversation about how I work with clients and families and how our team approaches managing clients’ money.  The advisor was impressed with our process, although a little bit shocked that we do everything in-house with respect to picking the investments that go into a client’s portfolio.  The advisor stated that many wealth managers in our business outsource that important task to outside money managers, mutual funds, or other investment advisory organizations.  As I have always communicated to clients, family, and friends, that approach has never been the right fit for our team as it is important to us to understand everything that our clients own.  The rest of the Ireland trip passed enjoyably and then we headed to our next destination. 

Since I make important decisions for people in my day job, I often like to have others plan a trip and then just tell me when and where to show up. I hardly looked at our itinerary, knowing that my family had spent time with our travel agent in finding excursions each day that were fun and interesting. When I heard that we were scheduled to participate in a cooking class in Sorrento, Italy, I initially begged off, saying I would just sit at the hotel pool. 

Thank goodness that my family had some influence over me because the cooking class experience ended up being one of the capstone events of our vacation. What made the event so nice was that we learned about, and experienced, an entire farm-to-table meal. We first accompanied the chefs to their small farm plot where we learned about the selection and timing of picking vegetables and fruits that were to be utilized for freshly prepared dishes. We then went with the chefs to their outside kitchen location where we learned many of the nuances of cooking with olive oil, sauteéing and dicing vegetables, pasta preparation, and so on.  It was a truly special experience for us as a family. 

It may have been the wonderful Italian wine that opened up my mind, but I had an epiphany when I realized that the farm-to-table experience was the same approach as The Ross Group’s wealth management operation, where we espouse that “we are the chefs who personally pick all the ingredients that go into a client’s portfolio.” While you can’t eat our finished product, it can bear lots of fruit with patient and disciplined nurturing. In fact, perhaps our stewardship process should be compared more closely to the art of farming – while planting seeds does take time, the end result is almost always worth the wait.