Terri Ferri is surrounded by affluence. As the senior vice president and branch manager of the Morgan Stanley Purchase office since November of 2013, her days – and sometimes beyond – are filled with financial details.
“It’s always 24-7. Technology is a blessing and a curse,” she says, as WAG sits on the obligatory leather couch in her well-appointed office on a recent morning. “My advisers know they can reach me weekends.”
So, what’s her work schedule like?
“It’s a busy day, let’s put it that way,” she says with a smile.
Indeed. Ferri meets with those 70-plus advisers on a weekly basis in the branch, but her job entails much more.
“I do a lot of one-on-one,” she says, and, overall, “My role is to grow revenue. My role is to hire advisers, increase my team” and also interact with clients and create business plans.
This latest step continues a long career. Before joining Morgan Stanley, Ferri was with Citi/Smith Barney for some 20 years in various management positions.
A STEADY PATH
Ferri grew up a daughter of dress-factory owners. John is an Italian immigrant who married American-born Louise, and her parents, Ferri says, gave her and her two sisters a strong foundation from the start.
“Neither one of them went to college but they always pushed (us),” she says. “They gave us a good home. They taught me ethics and values.”
Ferri graduated from Fordham University — “Rose Hill campus,” the Bronx native proudly notes — and began her career in finance in 1993.
“I knew I would do something in business, but I didn’t know what.”
She first took a temp job in the field, as assistant to an adviser — and went home telling her father that it was “such a dumb job,” that the people were just on the phone all day.
He told her, she says, “Well, that’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re calling their clients.”
Ferri was eventually offered a job in the field, again with her father’s firm encouragement — “They will pay you to learn,” she says he told her — guiding her path. Once on her way, she knew she had made the right decision, each step bringing her new experience as she advanced within the industry.
“I just knew that I liked people. I liked managing people,” she says, noting that her relationship skills may indeed be her strongest asset.
In time, Ferri reached a milestone.
“My first branch manager position was in 2008,” she says.
And she felt more than ready… mostly.
“I did every job, and I just felt that I understood the intensity. These are commission-based people. They’re not salary.”
And, she says, her temperament is suited to the fast-paced, market-driven environment.
“I have a high-tolerance level, which you need,” she says.
But, she still had to adjust to being in charge.
“That, in the beginning, was a little bit difficult,” she says.
And later joining Morgan Stanley, she adds, also meant adjusting to a new environment, but it’s proven to be “everything I thought it would be and more.”
Ferri, clearly a hands-on leader, speaks enthusiastically about support-staff appreciation events and the office’s banding together once again during the holidays to adopt a family, working with a local nonprofit that serves victims of domestic violence.
“It’s such a nice thing to give back because I feel fortunate.”
THE FEMALE FACTOR
Though she doesn’t initiate the subject, Ferri says she knows that being a woman in such a powerful position is a rarity — but from the start of her career, she embraced every challenge.
“I think for me I got a lot of opportunity in the beginning,” she says. “It forced me to come out of my comfort zone.”
She realized what she needed to do.
“This is a very male-dominated industry, so there aren’t a lot of women,” she says. “I think that as a woman you can never really show the emotional side of you.”
But, she says, she sees things evolving.
“I think the world is changing,” she says. “I think more women control money now, more women are heads of households.”
She says that women are looking for advisers — male or female — who “get” them and their needs. Her staff of 72 advisers, she says, includes eight women.
“The adviser roles haven’t changed as much but the clients have.”
FAMILY FIRST, LAST — AND ALWAYS
For Ferri, work in Purchase signifies not only a professional achievement but adds a welcome element to her personal life.
“I always worked in the city, so I didn’t come here because of the location, but it’s definitely helped me. It’s definitely allowed me easier access to be with my kids.”
Ferri lives in Eastchester with her husband of two years, Seth Marcus, and her daughters, Arielle, 19, and Toni, 15. Since her husband is also in finance — with Citi Personal Wealth Management — the subject of wealth is always close at hand.
“We always have something to talk about,” she says with a laugh.
Having had a mother who works hard is a good example for her daughters, she adds.
“I think part of them sees what I do and that I enjoy it,” she says, adding she encourages them in whatever they pursue. “What I try to say to them is if you love what you do, you will be good at it.”
It’s all about instilling the same values she learned growing up.
“I didn’t grow up a privileged, rich kid, but our parents took very good care of us.”
She jokes that there was always that encouragement to do better. Bring home a 99 on an exam? Her mother might ask why ‘“You couldn’t get one point more?’ So, we’d strive for that.”
While family is everything to Ferri, so is her Italian heritage.
She shares that she has visited Italy a few times and is a member of the board of trustees of the Italian American Forum.
“The Italian tradition to me is such a… I can’t think of the word. When you talk about wealth, these are the family traditions.”
Ferri has become very involved with Bronxville-based Italian American Forum Inc., a network of business and community leaders committed to promoting and preserving the Italian and Italian-American heritage. Ferri is proud of the forum’s work, which includes everything from raising funds for restoring architecture in Italy to supporting cultural and educational programs for local students.
“I like to do that anyway, but when it’s your own heritage, it means more,” she says. It’s almost, she says with a laugh, “cheating,” since she likes the work so much.
But no matter what activities she pursues, it all comes back to family — with Ferri making time for annual family vacations and long weekends with her husband.
Pausing to think about the very idea of wealth, Ferri says that, of course, at the most basic level, it’s about how you “can buy the designer shoes, the designer bag.”
But, she says, “money can’t make you happy.”
Wealth is so much deeper.
“I think about the holidays, family traditions.”
She mentions Christmas, when “even though there’s 26 people at the table, and I killed myself the last two days… to me, that’s wealth.”