By Christine Imbs
Find your passion and pursue it.
It’s advice we’ve all heard at one time or another. But for Vinny Ferrari, CIO of Edward Jones, the difficulty didn’t lay in finding his passion. It was in choosing which one to pursue.
“I love computers, but I also love business,” he says. “So rather than just go into one or the other, I wanted to marry the two together. Wall Street was the perfect venue.”
A native New Yorker, Ferrari spent his summer between his junior and senior years at college working for Chase Manhattan Bank. After graduation he became a full-time financial analyst for Chase using his computer savvy to write technology for financial modeling. It was the perfect job, in the perfect place, at the perfect time.
“It was 1982 and the markets which had been terrible the year before started turning around. Wall Street just took off,” he says. “So it all worked out perfectly. And it was a blast.”
But after 20 years of working constantly, Wall Street began to lose some of its luster. Ferrari began to seriously consider moving away from New York.
“At the time, my son was nine years old and my daughter seven. I realized I was working so much that I just didn’t see them very often,” he remembers. “One day, I got home at two in the morning, looked in the mirror and said to myself, you look terrible. You’ve got to do something about this.”
The next day he wrote a note to a recruiter asking him if he knew of any job opportunities outside of New York. As it turned out there was only one—Edward D. Jones in St. Louis.
“My wife and I were thrilled. But everyone in New York was just shocked. They couldn’t understand why I wanted to leave Wall Street,” he says. “But coming here has worked out great. Now I get to see my family more. And they actually like me.”
Ferrari started with Edward Jones in 2003 as a senior director in the Information Systems division, overseeing Business Solutions Development. In 2004 he was named a principal in the firm, and in January of 2007, he took over as CIO and was named to the firm’s Management Committee, right in the middle of a $54 million upgrade to the firm’s communications network.
“We took our entire branch network which was satellite-based and made it landlines,” he says. “That’s over 10,000 branches in North America and the UK. It increased our response time dramatically. And yes, I’d definitely call it a milestone for me. But it was really a big team effort. When I look back on my career, it’s not the global branch networks, but the opportunities I’ve had to work with great people that I consider my successes.”
This year Edward Jones is the recipient of the Spirit of St. Louis Technology Award. Ferrari says he believes the reason is that they do technology a little differently.
“It’s less about delivering the best widget or the coolest technology. Our approach to technology is making it easier to do business with Edward Jones. So we want our people to be business people first, not technology people first. If you’re solely technology focused, then you look to what kind of technology you can build. But if you’ve got multiple skills—if you have business skills and people skills as well—then you’ll find your solutions aren’t always technology solutions.”
Ferrari says he couldn’t be happier with his move to St. Louis.
“St. Louis has a whole lot more to offer because you can actually do things here. In New York things were either way too expensive or too inconvenient,” he says. “I love the diversity of meeting different people here and seeing things I haven’t had the opportunity to conveniently experience before. There’s a lot to St. Louis, and I’m still exploring it.”
BORN: New York
FAMILY: Married with a son and daughter.
EDUCATION: BA in Economics from Ursinus College in Pennsylvania
FAVORITE BOOK: The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
MUSIC: Everything from Vivaldi to ACDC
HOBBIES: Sailing, martial arts, spending time with the family
FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION: Europe
IF YOU COULD DO ANYTHING ELSE: “I’d travel & study ancient cultures.”
FAVORITE THING ABOUT ST. LOUIS: “It’s not just one thing. It’s everything.”