Chris Ferreri, the Chief Operating Officer at Hartfield, Titus, and Donnelly, shares insights pertaining to his academic and professional career. Having had experience working in a variety of industries and environment, Ferreri offers an intriguing perspective on leadership, particularly what it takes to be an effective leader. As Ferreri highlights some of his major milestones which have shaped his development as a leader, it becomes clear that he believes that an effective leader must model confidence and humility.
Wei Zheng: All right, all right, Chris. Thank you so much for spending the time with us I really appreciate it for you to spend the time to share with us your experience and insights
Chris Ferreri: My pleasure.
Wei Zheng: Could you give us an overview of your career history?
Chris Ferreri: Sure, I’d be happy to.
Chris Ferreri: I began my career and full-time career after I graduated from Steven’s in 1977 as a project manager for DuPont in Parlin, New Jersey. It was a manufacturing plant that made graphic arts and x-ray films. I spent seven years there in total migrated from a purely engineering position into a management track which brought me to the manufacturing side of the business. My next role at DuPont would have been to relocate, which I did not want to do for family reasons and I had an opportunity to come and work for financial services from Ethical relative In New York City.
Chris Ferreri: So, I left my engineering career and began a career as a US Treasury government bond broker. I did that in 1984. For 15 years I worked on the phones brokering the product and US Treasury bills notes and bonds. Worked my way through that position to running a desk managing a small group of brokers doing a more technical type of trading and then in 1999 so I had 15 years of doing that in 1999 I had the opportunity to go to my management and propose that we convert our system into an electronic trading system leveraging the this new thing called the internet and conductivity and non-centralized trading systems. I did that for about 10 years built out that business. And then in 2009 was asked to lead a lobby effort as a as a lobbyist during the Dodd Frank legislative process. Did that for five years and then left that company and joined the partnership at Hartfield, Titus, and Donnelly, where I am today as the Chief Operating Officer for a municipal securities broker’s broker. So back in the brokering world that is as a C suite executive
Wei Zheng: Well, thank you so much for your overview. So, can we start from the very beginning. What are some of your experiences during your formative years, childhood or early adulthood, that sort of have an important influence on who you are, who you have become and what you do later in life.
Chris Ferreri: Sure. Well, clearly, I have to thank my parents for the for the lessons that they taught me. My father never got past the eighth grade- was a depression era child and was very conscious of the benefits of hard work and saving. The one thing that he was more than willing to spend money on was education and he, I have two older brothers, he made certain that the three of us had every opportunity we could have for education right through college. He was, he was very much although he was uneducated, he was very intelligent very wise and most of his friends were professionals, doctors, and lawyers. He ran his own business until he passed away and what I what I learned most from him in those formative years was the ability to improvise when solving problems. Don’t jump at the first solution that might be the easiest to get to, but not have the best benefits. Again, the leadership that he showed within the family and in through the extended family of coming to him for solving problems was a very methodical thinker, a very, very bright guy. So, I learned those lessons from him.
Chris Ferreri: But I also have to say that I learned a lot of leadership lessons from my mother and she was a traditional stay at home homemaker. She very much led by service to others. She’s an extremely generous person with her time and her effort. If anybody needed anything, she was the first to run. Her mantra was be the better person and I think that was something that stayed with me all my life and has influenced how I look at dealing with people working with people you know that the good that you do comes back to you in one form or another you may not recognize it right away. But it was very, very important to me and as I look back and thinking about your question. You know that type of mentality doesn’t seem to square with, you know, the rough and tumble walls of Wall Street. There were many times in my career as a broker that I had to make a decision on whether to do what was right or to do what might make me the most money. I will tell you I always took what I thought was right. And I, and that’s a lesson from my parents.
Wei Zheng: Do you have an example of one of those challenges where you’re faced with the decision of either making more money or doing the right thing.
Chris Ferreri: Oh sure, you know, just to give you some background of what a what a government bond broker did in the today.
Chris Ferreri: You know, although we had electronic screens of our prices, the broker took orders verbally over the telephone. You know, you had information and there was information asymmetry. You knew something someone else didn’t know and it was your job to keep that information confidential until you found the right opportunity to do what was best for your customer, right, for if you are representing a buyer trying to buy something at the lowest price if you’re representing the seller trying to sell something if the highest price. I used to joke that
Chris Ferreri: Our job was to move both sides of a trade equally unhappy. Right, because the buyer wants the lowest price and the seller wants the highest price and you have to make sure they’re both equally unhappy for the trade to get done.
Chris Ferreri: But there were times your customers would say, you know, can you tell me something about it. You know, who’s the seller, what’s he trying to do and you; that’s those aren’t appropriate questions and you know, I knew many traders, that would not really do business with me because I would not give them that information and they would find other brokers that did.
Wei Zheng: Thank you. Um, let’s explore your educational background a little bit so you had a degree in electrical and electronics engineering from Stevens.
Chris Ferreri: Yes.
Wei Zheng: So how has that engineering background either helped you or hindered you at different points in your career.
Chris Ferreri: Well, I think the first thing, and this is something that Stevens, I think should be very proud of. When I went to Stevens the first two years, the curriculum for the first few years was pretty standard among all engineering students and then your junior year began to take more electives. But for the first two years it was a very broad-based engineering education. But what they always told us, I think, was very true was we’re not teaching you necessarily physics or chemistry or biology or, thermodynamics, what we’re teaching us how to think. How to think critically, how to solve problems and, you know, going back to my early days with my dad and watching him solve problems.
Chris Ferreri: Stevens gave us the opportunity to look at a problem and break it down into pieces and understand best how to solve it. That ability to do that, and I was far from an honor roll student I- the sequence was very challenging for me. But I was able to bring with me to Wall Street which in particular was – number one an appreciation for technical people and in Wall Street in the 80s, computer people who weren’t called IT back then, people were just seen as utility, they’ll just keep things running and we don’t really need them because our business is all about us and our relationships. And frankly, it wasn’t until 1999 with the Y2K panic, the conversion to Millennium that the CIO was even in the boardroom. They were not viewed as strategic business partners of an organization until the mid to late 90s.
Chris Ferreri: So, when I came in people were surprised. Why is an engineer doing brokering? But what it did for me in addition to give me an appreciation for technical people it helped me translate what we were doing on the business side into what the technical people could do for us and it was interesting because it was a more particular project where we I wanted to create an indicative pricing engine so that it would help our brokers, get a better sense of where a variety of US Treasury issues could be properly priced
Chris Ferreri: So, I went to my manager and said I have this idea. He said, sure, you know, lay it out, see what it looks like. I sat down with our IT people and said, here’s what I want to do and they immediately said, I don’t think we can do that. So, I gave it to them and pieces. Well, you know, can you do part A? Then they came back “Oh yeah I can do part A.” Okay. Now, can you do part B? Then they do part B. Now can you put A and B together to get C.
Chris Ferreri: Okay, we did that, and I was about halfway there. And they said, Okay, now let’s So, get, you know, D, E and F and put all this together and by the time we were done they had done what they thought they couldn’t do.
Chris Ferreri: I also like marketing a lot by the way. So, I needed to market this not only to my customers, but to my brokers and I needed to give it a sort of a human face. So, I had an acronym called linking using comparative yields L-U-C-Y Lucy. Lucy happened to be my mother’s name so as a good Italian boy I named it after my mother and people actually refer to Lucy, as a person. There’s almost this this extra smart broker out there that could tell you how to price things. And that was the beginning of my move away from the desk, you know, away from the telephones and becoming more involved with electronic trading which is what I ultimately did for.
Wei Zheng: Hmm, that’s a very interesting example. Thank you for sharing that. So, related to that so you’re on the other side of the table, you are the person who needs IT to support you. But what about turning the table around a you are the technical, professional needing to communicate with non-technical people. So there seems to be a need for translation. What are some ways that technical people can better translate what they can do what they can serve business needs to non-technical professionals?
Chris Ferreri: Well I think, the very first step, and this has been exasperated by you know, the last 20 years of outsourcing IT, the very first step is understanding what the business is trying to do. You know, it’s an interesting dilemma, whether it’s business people talking to technical people or business people talking to their legal people, their legal counsel. There are many instances where in business, you’re trying to do a certain deal, maybe merge with a company or sell part of your company. And naturally, you have to bring the lawyers on to make sure you do everything right and the lawyers will always point out all the negatives, all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it, all the things you just got to be careful about.
Chris Ferreri: And in my experience, there are times when if you purely listened to the lawyers, you would never do the deals. Right, because no deal is perfect. So, at some point in time in business, you have to say no, I understand the risks, I’m accepting the risks, and I’m going to do it anyway. That happens as well with technical people, right, if you, if the people working for you on the technology side don’t really understand your business, how you make money, how you service your customers, how your business, you know, the potential problems your business would face, then all you’re asking them to do is to solve one problem at a time without having that problem in context. Right. So I think a big part of it is you have to engage your technology people so that you have somewhat of an understanding of what their processes you know how they program, what steps you might need to take, but in exchange for that you give them a very, very clear understanding of what your business is and how your business works.
Chris Ferreri: And what we found is when you do that, you wind up getting technical people that number one can help you solve a problem quickly, number two become more invested in your business because they really understand it and they want to help solve it, and number three, you wind up keeping those people around for a very long time. There are people at my former company that have been there since the early 80s and they’re still there. There’s nothing else they’d rather do than to work for that company because not only do they understand it inside out, they created the technology that built the businesses. And so, they’re invested in the business, their careers are invested with you. You can’t do that when you just tell people what to do. I think you can do that when you make those people your partners, right, not necessarily equity partners but partners in the future of the business and at least that’s been my experience.
Wei Zheng: So, for example, our university, I guess a lot of the people in our audience are focused on technology, so for them, what are some of your advice in terms of how to be able to speak the business language if you’re working with some business people who can’t translate things like what you did to break the things down so that they can understand it in technical terms and help out? What are some ways for technical people to actively pursue business-related knowledge to be able to translate what they can provide the service they can provide for business ends besides getting an MBA?
Chris Ferreri: No. Well, I think, I think an MBA is useful, I don’t think it’s necessary. I think when it comes to, what my experience and many technical so, people are incredibly bright, smarter than I’ll ever be. But they need to have some humility to understand what they don’t know, right? I might know a certain level of coding inside out and my own curiosity about better myself might make me read books on it or a breakdown of the people’s trading systems or other products. But when someone comes to me that is responsible for a portion of the business. The first thing I have to do is say, Okay, I need to know what you know I’m the technical person right you have to help me. Tell me what you know and how that works. And I have to respect you for that knowledge. I should be humble in my skills, right, I should be humble in my abilities to say, Okay, I know what I know and you’ll never know what I know, but there’s probably things you know that I’ll never know. So, let’s so, find that common ground, that common respect. You know all too often, you get this this characteristic image is your image of the IT people who are you know resentful of commercial people that might be advancing more than they are or making more money than they do and they feel “Gee I’m so important to this company. Without me this company couldn’t run.” That’s a really bad trap to fall into and this is an important point in life, and I only thought of this now as I’m speaking to you.
Chris Ferreri: Wei, technology changes so quickly, and it has for a long time. I graduated Stevens in 1977 and four years later, the four years of experience working for DuPont, a multinational conglomerate, electrical engineers coming out of Stevens knew more about the technology than I did. my work experience was valuable to DuPont, but it wasn’t really valuable in terms of furthering my education because unless you go for graduate degrees and decide that, “No, I want to stay. I’m going to continue to learn about electrical engineering and different aspects of it,” your skills become stale. So, it’s important as it from a technical perspective: one to appreciate you know the business you’re working in, two be humble and your knowledge and your intelligence and three, you know, never stop learning. I think that’s a trap that that many people fall into to say, okay, that was really tough. I’ve learned my degree and I’m done. Back in the day, it was, it was more difficult to find those resources. Today you can find those resources online. You can you can find it at any, any level of costs from free too expensive. But it’s stay curious, stay invested in in your career and your company and always focus on the fact that you don’t know everything you have to engage some sort of a professional mentor to help you further your career.
Wei Zheng: Great points, great points. So, let’s go back to your career trajectory. So, in your career experience, what are some major milestones, sort of successes and failures, you’ve experienced that sort of formed you as a leader.
Chris Ferreri: Well, I’ll focus on the Wall Street career because it was longer and had more turns. There was one point when the company was merging and had hired a consulting company come to come in, Capegemini, and do an evaluation of the systems that we used. The objective of the consulting engagement was to determine what systems do we have, which is the best of breed, which should we keep, which should we retire, and so on.
Chris Ferreri: So, my management said, Chris, you know you designed all this, why don’t you work with a consultant? So, I worked as a consultant for about three weeks, and at the end of the consultancy, when it became clear of what the next step should be for the company, it was the consultant that said to me, “So when are you going to do this?” When am I going to do what? He said, I spent three weeks with you, you’ve laid out the whole plan and you’re going to go back to being a broker? Raise your hand and say, you know, you can do it. And that was very important to me because it took that third-party person to sort of take a metaphorical step back for me, to say, look, you’ve done all this already, this is clearly what you’re interested in. It’s what you should pursue. So, I think that was that was very formative in my work there. So, I did that, I raised my hand, I left the desk, and built out the system.
Chris Ferreri: The next step, about a year later. I was fortunate enough to have a new boss on this electronic trading side of things. His name was Steve McDermott, he’s since passed away. And Steve approached me and said, listen, the company wants to create a new division in electronic trading and you’ve just left the desk. You don’t have any experience within a company as a CEO in some way, he did the CEO for different, another business. He said, why don’t you work for me and we’ll do this together? I said sure, you know, when we see what it’s about what how that would work and what Steve did for me was to give me, free reign to try out new ideas, I would bounce them off of him first. He gave me some constructive criticism along the way, but he would always say, listen, I’m paying you to do it, go do it. Right, and I think, you know, between having someone that helped us want to push the bird out of the nest in the consultant and having someone that that would let me find my own, they were really, really important to me in my, in my career growth. I was never the person that was full of bluster or just say, I can do it. Walk out of room and say now what do I do? I wouldn’t say I could do it unless I felt confident that I could and I think I was fortunate to have a mentor in Steve that I knew if it didn’t work, something failed, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We solve it and figure it out and move forward.
Chris Ferreri: In fact, I’m going to share something with you that goes back to the formative years and this has to do with my father and with Stevens. It was the first month of my freshman year at Stevens and I was struggling terribly. You know, this, at the time see visit have orientation and the, and the, although this might sound like an old wife’s tale it was very much a true story. At orientation, look to your left look to your right, in four years, one of those persons won’t be there.
Wei Zheng: Wow.
Chris Ferreri: You know, a third of the class will drop out before finishing, and after first month of Stevens I thought for certain that I’d be in that third that dropped out.
Chris Ferreri: I called home from the pay phone in the dormitory, got my mother on the phone, and again I was the youngest of three boys, my two brothers were older they graduated college and now everything was on me. And my mother was very upset, she said you have to tell your father. My father got on the phone he said so what’s the matter, I said, listen, I think, you know, I think this is over my head. I’m not doing well. I’m having a lot of trouble keeping up with the class. I haven’t really passed any tests yet. I want to come home and start over and being the practical person that he was, he said, Listen. I never did it. I can’t, I don’t know what it’s like, it’s paid for until Christmas. Just stay there. Give it your best shot, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll figure something out and why I had to tell you I bird literally looked at the at the hand side of the phone and I said, Dad, you sure. And he said, listen, you’re 18 years old. You’re a man. He said, I’m sure we’ll figure this out. Just don’t leave don’t give up. And that was probably the single greatest advice I could be given at that time, which really underscores how smart and wise my father was because I did go on to graduate, but I think you have to look at those experiences in life and never forget them.
Wei Zheng: Now I can’t get me to shake the image off my mind, though you were staring at the phone and feeling tremendous support.
Chris Ferreri: Because it was the last thing I expected. I expected him to say to me, you’re not working hard enough, you must be partying, you know how much studying. And he didn’t he just said, Listen, I never did it. I don’t know what it’s like. He said, but if you leave now, you’ll never know. So just stay.
Wei Zheng: Wow.
Chris Ferreri: It was great advice. It was for me, it was the advice of a lifetime.
Wei Zheng: Any other turning points or milestones?
Chris Ferreri: Well I think in terms of leading a group working for Steve in the electronic trading division we brought on, we had to build up the staff quickly, we didn’t have a big budget, right because we’re building something brand new with no revenue. And the business was transitioning already, it was changing, it was consolidating so I had a group of brokers that were skilled at what they did, but just unfortunate in their luck in terms of who their customers were and what customer moved on, retired, or did something different. So, I brought on about 12 people into my team and explained to all of them that this was a new opportunity. If anyone was going to build a system to electronify what we did, who better than us to build that. Right, we had all the experience, we had the knowledge, who better than us than to design something that people would find useful, who better than us would be able to sell this to our customers because of our knowledge of the business.
Chris Ferreri: And they were very reluctant, they weren’t sure, you know they looked at me and said, we aren’t an engineer. Yeah, I know you’re a broker, but you’re an engineer first, you know how to do this stuff. And I always found it very important to find the strengths of the people that work for you. And I would explain to the brokers, I would say listen, just because you what you did in your career, you found easy to do. It might have been easy for you, but not for someone else. And it was easier for you because you have a certain skill set. And that skill set. Made you a successful broker for many years. The fact that the business has changed doesn’t diminish your skill set. You just have to refocus. And I did a lot of reading. I tried to find some experiences that others had in leadership.
Chris Ferreri: We when we spoke earlier where we talked about that book, Moses on Management, which is a very useful tool to help people. In a very short, brief, we get a better understanding of what it means to manage a group of people and having them to become the best that they could be. I am a big, big believer in hiring the right people and letting them do what they do best. You know, you have to do that when you’ve explained what it is you want them to do. So, I think that’s an important part of it. And I think another really big component of it, and this is a lesson I learned at DuPont, one of my engineers engineering managers said to me once, the biggest problem we have here, now this is a big manufacturing plant with a couple of thousand people, the biggest problem we have here is communication. And I think that’s an incredibly important lesson for us. Always remember that. If you don’t communicate effectively into the message, you’re trying to send you’ll be burdened trying to get that message across. You have to know your audience; you have to give them the incentive of having them invest in their future with you. I think if I think people by their nature, want to feel productive, and they’ll want to feel satisfied when they finished their day. I don’t think people wanted to just sit there taking the toll of their job. And if you’ve hired someone that doesn’t want to do that, you’ve hired the wrong person.
Chris Ferreri: You try to surround yourself with people that are invested in your business, you communicate effectively what your objectives are, you constantly stay in touch with them and make sure you understand what their issues are and how you can help them, and you find a way to audience; grow together.
Wei Zheng: So, on this topic in our prior conversation. You mentioned the importance of understanding people’s history in order to understand their present day, the present thinkings and values and things like that. Could you say more on that? How do you do that?
Chris Ferreri: Well, I think, you know, there’s some generalizations, you can do. I think part of that generalization is and sociologists to this all the time, right, they put us in these generational buckets, like I’m a baby boomer, there’s Generation Z, and there’s millennials, and there’s yuppies, and all these different you know groups of people that you can begin to characterize. I think what you have to do is understand sort of where that person came from, what made them who they are. When I applied for the job at DuPont during my interview when I was asked about, you know, the sort of summer jobs that I had, you know if I worked during college.
Chris Ferreri: And when I said, listen, I you know I worked in my father’s business, you know, he was they sold laundry supplies. I did mechanical work for him I you know it’s probably not the greatest experience for an engineering job. And the plant engineer said no, it’s actually the perfect experience. What do you mean? He said you worked for a sole proprietor, you had to figure out how to do things on your own, how to you know, make a customer happy with the resources, you had.
Chris Ferreri: That’s great experience. We don’t, we don’t shy away from that we think it’s a great way to learn
Chris Ferreri: So what you have to when you meet people and get a sense of who they are, you know, are they from the area, are they local, are they from a different region from a different country, what’s their family situation, are they married single divorced, do they have children, do they not have children, are they one of many children, are they living at home with their parents? All these factors come into play when you’re speaking with someone and you have to realize you’re speaking to an individual, you’re not speaking to an employee. You know, you have to you have to get a sense of, sort of the background of the individual and then a better sense of what that individual wants for you. I had a, a woman that worked for me that was incredibly aggressive and you know she thinking’s made it very, very clear that her objective in life was having my job.
Chris Ferreri: My response was, my job is not going to be here forever. You have to have your own job. You have to figure out what it is you want to do. If you’re going to try to be me it’s not gonna work. I’m not that good at being me. Okay. So, so you got to figure it out yourself. But once she said that I looked at her differently. I had a different approach to how going to I would manage her. And it became an approach of continually challenging her to let her help going to her find what her path would be. So, I think, you know, there was a book a long time ago by Maurice Massey called What You Are Is Where You Were When. It was very helpful for me when I was at DuPont understanding people. He uses an example and I think it’s an example that really clarifies this. His point is that the experiences we have at a young age help form us for the rest of our lives. And one example of that is music, the music that we listen to when we were teenagers is music we’re always going to listen to, we’re always going to like. It might associate us with a first date with a with a party with a big event in our lives, but it will be the music that we listen to for the rest of our lives, because it was the music we listen to when we were being formed. And I think whenever I tell that story to people, they nod their heads. Oh yeah, you know, I can see that because I do listen to the music that I listened to when I was a teenager.
Chris Ferreri: So, if you if you take that approach to say, I have to understand this person’s background, what helped form them, now I might be able to So, figure out how to approach it. For DuPont, as an example, if you were, if you were to discipline, an employee, one form of discipline was to take that employee off of the overtime list so that employee will not be eligible for overtime and would make less money. That was a very effective tool if the employee was married with them working with children if that was that employee’s situation. If the employee was a single man who lived at home it’s a great honor you don’t have to work overtime anymore. Right, that wasn’t, not much of a punishment. So those are some things to keep in mind when it comes to both rewarding and disciplining.
Wei Zheng: So, in your experience growing, developing into a leader, which I assume is very different from being an individual contributor, or being a broker, what are some major learning you have gained in that experience?
Chris Ferreri: I think it’s the humility of not knowing everything. I think it’s the appreciation for the people that work for you. And a lot of them do what they do best. I think it’s important for a leader because at the end of the day, you’re responsible for it, right, at the end of the day, they’re looking to you for the vision of what do we do next, where do we go from here? Sometimes being a leader just helps them figure that out with you. Right, you take a very strategic and scientific approach to the problem and lay out all the options, lay out all the problems, and say what do you think guys and ladies, where are we? And that’s what they look to a leader for. You can’t panic, you can’t you can’t say hey you know, business is really bad, we’re not gonna- we’re going out of business, you gotta do something. Businesses go in cycles, our office in particular where we’re in the business of interest rates, interest rates at zero right now, so our business is very quiet. And could say like that for a period of time, we’ll have to deal with it as it as it continues to develop but got to you don’t panic your employees, you don’t tell them all the bad things that could happen. They know the bad things that could happen. So, you have to figure out how do we get the good things to come out of this.
Wei Zheng: And also on management. What are some ways you have developed your skills? What helped you? Did you go out of your way or a very intentional in terms of trying to gather these leadership skills?
Chris Ferreri: Oh. Hundred percent I read a lot, I continue to read a lot. I look to my wife, frankly, for a lot of leadership skills. She’s an amazing person with very, very calm demeanor, very strategic thinking. I think it’s important for leaders to rely on other people that they respect. You never stop looking at, I would never have stopped looking for a mentor. I would never have stopped looking for someone that I could learn from. I am far from the smartest person in the room, I recognize that. But I also recognize that I have a tremendous amount of respect for people and their personal situations. So as a leader, I think it’s important you know you’re going to own the decision. You know that people are looking to you for that decision.
Chris Ferreri: One skill I learned was, decisions are very easy once you have all the all the facts, and gathering the facts is the hard part, right. More decisions are, people have made more decisions more incorrect decisions because they didn’t have all the facts and maybe they didn’t search some hard enough, or maybe they didn’t want to find out what the facts were, they’re afraid of what the facts would be. So, listening to other people, reading a variety of books on leadership has been very, very helpful. But understanding that I can’t be someone else. I have to pick the pieces of the people that I admire most. I can’t be jack Welch from GE. Right. I can’t. But I can admire some of the tactics jack used. I can’t be Steve Jobs, but I can admire the marketing vision that he had of how to use technology. So, I think that’s an important part for me in my growth was to look at other people and take the pieces that were best of them. And hopefully I was able to build that into a person that you know I would be proud of.
Wei Zheng: Did you have did you seek out mentors or mentors mostly came to you?
Chris Ferreri: You know, I think, I think it’s a combination of the two. I, I did seek out Steve McDermott, I thought very early on I admired what he had done his career. And we had very good chemistry from the very start. When it came to mentors on the brokerage side of the business I more often than not, will talk to my customers to be mentors than my coworkers. And I did that because I admired what they did. I respected the path that they chose the business which was different than my path. So, I wanted to understand why did you go that route, you know, did I pick the wrong route? So, I, again, I think it comes back to humility. I think, very good leaders, although they might come across as people with very large egos, I think the best leaders are very humble.
Wei Zheng: I wanted let’s transition a little bit. So, in your experience you participated, mostly in the private sector, but you had in depth participation in the legislative efforts that created Dodd Frank Act. Could you share some experience from that period of time? What, what was it like?
Chris Ferreri: I spent 25 years on Wall Street. And it wasn’t until I went to Washington that I felt dirty. The system is broken. The system is run by a variety of interests. If you have enough money and enough influence you can direct politicians to do what you need. It’s just the way it is. Dodd Frank came in a very important time for our country. The country was on the brink of a financial collapse. There are components of Dodd Frank that was incredibly useful and incredibly important, incredibly well done. There are other sections that had nothing to do with the crisis, but they were put into the act because lobbyists were able to get them into the act. That was very disappointing. I thoroughly enjoyed the process.
Chris Ferreri: I testified before Congress twice. I was particularly proud of the fact that when I would have a meeting with someone, we have a conversation at the end of the conversation they’d ask “So what school did you go to?” Stevens. I found that very rewarding. And I was able to quickly pivot from a commercial person to a policy person. We I did that for five years. We formed an association. I was initial chairman of the association. I made sure that we that all our bylaws would have a rotation of leadership, so that no one felt that I was trying to take anything over. Again, being respectful of other people’s concerns. Yeah, the Washington environment is not a healthy environment. And I can, I can use the drain the swamp metaphor. It’s I made up of people whose primary focus is to keep their careers not to serve the public.
Wei Zheng: So, when you were like bridging the private to into the public space public policy space, how did you adapt? Did you have, what kind of things did you have to adapt in terms of how you operated and how did you get people to work together?
Chris Ferreri: So, I think, when I was asked to do this, I gave it some thought. And I said, listen, we can’t we can’t convince someone to think the way that we do unless they really understand where we’re coming from. So, I propose this educate and then influence model. And the idea behind it was listen if we can educate them on what we do and how important our role is in the financial markets and answer any question they have about it right. Get them as quickly as we can, up to speed with what we do, then explain to them with what we want is half the job. You can’t go into first and this is what we need. And then there’s no context. There’s no knowledge of why would you need that. When you educate them first and share as much as you can in the short time that you have of what your business is, then when you say, oh, and this is what we need. They come back because I understand now that that allows you to do this. That’s right. That’s why we need that.
Chris Ferreri: You know, there was a big push during Dodd Frank to make all the derivatives trading go fully electronic on exchanges. These are very complex instruments that are not standard cookie cutter items like stocks and they require a deep knowledge of what that particular financial instrument’s going to do. It does take a professional to explain the situation and understand the situation and help try and find the right buyer for the right seller. We were able in Dodd Frank to have the ability to have humans as part of the process survive. That was our, our first objective when we accomplish that. That said, it was you’re constantly battling the particular leadership of either the regulator or the or the legislator who might have had a different view going in. Might have said, I don’t care what you say, I don’t, I don’t see the need for it, I want to go electronic like everything else has. So, you have to understand where they’re coming from, why they’re coming from that direction. Again, try to educate them to the point where you get them to basically sell what you’re trying to sell.
Wei Zheng: That’s great insights. Thank you. Let’s pivot, a little bit more to talk about COVID-19. So, what are some big trends in the circles you travel in terms of from COVID-19 that’s probably going to have a long-lasting impact.
Chris Ferreri: Well, for our business, we were able to in about two weeks’ time back in March provide the necessary technology to have all of our brokers work from home. We had already had our trading System was on, web-based servers, our intercom system was web-based, we were able to our telephone system was web-based so we were able to migrate our progress very quickly to let them work from home. I would say we probably did that and maintained 85 or 90% efficiency. And then we lost a little bit by not sitting next to each other.
Chris Ferreri: For our customers, I think it was more difficult. I think for the traders, the customers, the people that we call our customers, they benefited from being in a room together as a group, they benefited from sharing ideas, sharing trading strategies. And not just for 15- or 20-minute meetings in the morning, but all throughout the day. Right. And, you know, President Trump is speaking right now. What’s he saying, what’s that going to do to the market? How does that impact this? So, I think short term to market did okay, I don’t think it’s going to work long term, I think people need to get back to work, need to get back into the office environment. You know, one thing I learned thermodynamics was entropy. Entropy is the ability for something to slowly just fall apart, unless you put energy in it to keep it together.
Chris Ferreri: I think COVID-19 exposed entropy in many people and many organizations and in order to keep things together, you have to work at it. Certain people can work alone. They’re disciplined enough, they’re dedicated enough, they understand their role on a company and they focus on it 24 hours a day, not just 8. Other people have difficulty focusing at work and putting them at home makes it almost impossible so that’s where I think I’m coming from when it comes to COVID, I think. I think a year from now, we’ll be working back in the office, everyone. I think our cities are designed to work with people. I think until New York City finds a way to make the subway safe, people won’t come back but once they do people will come back. There’s a lot of people that are really suffering right now and it’s very sad because if you just if you just took the trend as it is, it’s pretty negative. I think you have to say you know this too shall pass. And we’ll figure out what’s next.
Wei Zheng: What are some innovations, you have seen that you really think would be promising for the future even post, post COVID?
Chris Ferreri: I think the productivity gains that we saw from things like Microsoft Office in the 80s and 90s the productivity gains of the internet connecting businesses in real time. I think artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to accelerate those productivity gains. I think that it will help people make decisions make better informed decisions. And I think that people have recognized that you have to embrace technology to make your business better. You can’t just ignore it, you can’t just say, I’m not gonna do it. You can’t be a lot I ignored with what’s happening around you. I think that the lasting trend to some extent will be a certain set of people that will continue to work remotely. I think companies are going to see that. Perhaps I don’t have to have expensive 30,000 square feet in New York City. I can have 15,000 square feet in New Jersey and 15,000 square feet in Florida and I can run my business pretty well that way. I think companies are looking very closely at tax structures tax rates, what’s required for them. But I think it’s, and again I think technology helps figure those things out more quickly.
Wei Zheng: Now, on a more personal note, what kind of things do you do to sort of keep on top of various changes or information in your industry or the areas you’re interested in? Where do you get your information?
Chris Ferreri: Well I use there are certain industry websites. One is called the Tab Forum, Trade Magazine, there’s different sites that you get help. Other than that, I do read the Wall Street Journal. I get a lot of insights on Twitter, frankly.
Wei Zheng: What do you follow on Twitter?
Chris Ferreri: Oh, bunch of different people, you know. But the caution with Twitter, and what any of the social media sites, is and I’m very conscious of this, they really tend to create echo chambers. Right, you really tend to only see the news that you want to see. I consciously make an effort to follow people from different viewpoints. because I don’t want to fall into that trap. Right. I don’t want to be in a conversation where I don’t know what Rachel Maddow had to say what Brett Baier had to say or someone else. You know I follow writers. I follow people like Matt Taibbi, who I think is a very, very honest person is in his viewpoints. Dave Rubin who’s an interesting writer. So, I think what I just try to I try to look at all different aspects of different approaches and figure out why do they think they’re right.
Wei Zheng: Excellent, excellent. That’s actually all of my questions. Is there anything else you’d like to leave for our audience?
Chris Ferreri: No, I just, I think these are important things for people to listen to and to get a sense of, I would
Chris Ferreri: Want to follow me on that’s CC Ferreri and I’d be happy to do that. But I think in closing, would be I think religious leaders have a balance of confidence and humility. That’s an important mix.
Wei Zheng: Great confidence and humility. Thank you so much, Chris, for sharing your insights. I appreciate it.
Chris Ferreri: Take care. Bye bye.
Wei Zheng: Thank you. Bye bye.