The Legacy of Ferris & Company
Many of us have been blessed with wonderful mentors in our lives. In my case, there have been few individuals whom I respected more than George M. Ferris Sr., the founder of the securities firm, Ferris & Company. I was fortunate enough to be hired as a part-time intern at Ferris & Company in September, 1979, and that opportunity opened the door for a full-time position. A few years later, another blessing occurred when Mr. Ferris’s son asked whether I would drive his then 92-year-old father to the office every day. I didn’t realize early on how much these carpool discussions would impact my thinking by giving me better perspective over the years using history as a guide.
I treasured our carpool rides until Mr. Ferris died in 1992 at the age of 99. Our conversations included sports, business, politics, farming, and just about everything involving “life lessons.” Mr. Ferris Sr. was an exceptional man who was self-made, and everything he earned was forged through hard work, grit, respect for others, and some good timing.
George Ferris, along with two partners, opened Ferris, Woodroof, & Lewis on September 9, 1932 with $22,000 in capital. However, Mr. Ferris’s partners were heavily influenced by the politics of the day, and they sold their shares to Mr. Ferris a few months later once FDR was elected president. His former partners believed that President Roosevelt was anti-business and would do little to stimulate the U.S. economy. Mr. Ferris had deep conviction in his business, so he was willing to buy out his partners and take on more ownership risk despite the times of the day.
Mr. Ferris would constantly remind me that owning and growing a business was about commitment, perseverance, and skill. He could not control outside factors – politics, the economy, or interest rate levels – but a business would endure and prosper with good stewardship and a long-term mindset.
Many of the principles and beliefs communicated to me by George M. Ferris Sr. are timeless. Moreover, these discussions helped me immeasurably to prepare, function, and provide meaningful perspective and counsel to clients when we experienced unsettling times or conditions. My hope is that The Ross Group will continue to be sufficiently prepared to help guide you through further good times and bad.
History of Gail Winslow
I have reflected on what Gail Winslow did for me and countless others over her exceptional life and career. I’ve always believed that fate or destiny steers us in one direction over another. God was looking down on me when I answered an ad in the Washington Post to apply for a part-time internship at Ferris & Company. The $0.25 newspaper that I bought my junior year at GW University turned out to be the best investment I ever made. Its return on investment today – PRICELESS!
Gail was a walking encyclopedia, particularly around economic history. She was the perfect nexus tying the old days in the securities industry with today’s wealth management industry. Her experience and instincts guided us through some very exciting times but also through some gut-wrenching cycles. Gail had forgotten more in her 60-year career than most of us will ever learn. When the next book is written about the history of the wealth management industry, I have no doubt that an entire chapter will be devoted to Gail’s exceptional career.
Gail also got straight A’s in the art of leadership and communication. She was an exceptional communicator on myriad topics including economics, investing, politics, sports, religion, and so on. Whether she was in front of 2,500 people or just one-on-one, you felt that she was only communicating to you.
Gail had tremendously deep conviction in everything she pursued. As such, it was impossible not to develop a deep sense of respect for her. Gail was so successful in her life because she set and exceeded her aspirational goals and dreams. She often said, “If you don’t set goals in life, you’ll never achieve anything.”
One of Gail’s defining traits was her generosity toward others. I’m hard-pressed to think of many others who stepped up in so many ways for those less fortunate. I didn’t know what community service was until I met Gail Winslow. She would say, “Do it the right way, and from the heart, and good things will come for everyone.”
Gail wasn’t just a boss, mentor, colleague, or confidant. She became as close to family as my own parents, almost like a second mother. She was there when I bought my first house – Gail insisted that she inspect the house before we made our first offer. She was at my daughter’s first birthday party and many other celebrations that followed. I attribute 100% of my success to the fact that Gail took a chance on me and she never stopped polishing me in my craft. For the rest of my life, I will always endeavor to make her proud in everything I do.
I always wanted to ask her what she wanted inscribed on her tombstone or in her Book of Life. I regret not asking but I have an idea what she might say. “Giving more and taking less is the elixir of life.”
Gail was a maverick in the wealth management industry. She built her highly successful career on her own through grit and sheer determination. She did all this while raising a family of 6 children, and having the foresight to be years if not decades ahead of her peers in such areas as: Developing a team concept; computerizing her business in the early 1980’s; spearheading an internship program; and breaking down barriers involving women in what was strictly a male-dominated business.
Gail Whitehead Winslow Ginsburgh – she was the real deal and I shall always salute her honor.
- Steve Ross