When Scott Neff talks of going back to 1984, he’s not opining about his lost youth.
He’s talking about the business philosophy at The Glenview Trust Co., where he is the co-CEO.
“We’re trying to build a business around the way things were done 30 years ago,” Neff said. “And 30 years ago, companies like ourselves had very experienced people who stayed at a firm for most of their career (and) built relationships that lasted generations.”
The way to do that, he said, is to bring in experienced staff, give them good accounts and limit their workloads.
Upon graduating from Centre College in 1983, Neff knew he wanted to do something in the financial sector. He also knew it had to involve working with others.
Those who work with him say he’s a numbers and a people person.
“I liked helping people solve problems,” he said.
Neff is known as the “tech guy” at Glenview Trust.
He traces that to his first job out of college at Hilliard Lyons.
The financial services company got its first personal computer about a year after he joined, and when Neff became a portfolio manager, he began digging in to how the PC could help explain to clients what was happening with their investments.
He recalls there were very few tech tools for portfolio managers at the time, and his hunt led him into database work.
He eventually began developing programs for the financial industry, and today he serves on a portfolio management system advisory board known as InvestEdge Inc.
He also helped to create a portfolio management program that his firm uses today.
Neff sees himself as a bridge between tech creators and end users.
“Cutting your teeth in this business, particularly as a portfolio manager, and finding tools so you can explain things to clients was a challenge,” Neff said. “But I like that. It’s helped me in my whole career since.”
But he also cautioned that technology alone won’t reveal what clients want and need.
“We’re not using technology to build relationships with clients,” he said. “You use it around the edges to make it more efficient and easier to understand. If you can’t build a relationship in a deep enough way, clients won’t open up about what their hopes, desires and fears are. And if you don’t know that, you can’t help them.”
Sharing the reins
Neff shares the company leadership role with Tawana Edwards. She’s an attorney and trust professional who handles the fiduciary and compliance side of the business, while he runs the investment side and — of course — leads in the technology realm.
The shared leadership was a natural evolution. David Grissom, who chaired the board of directors, and former CEO Ronald J. Murphy founded the company together in 2001.
When Murphy retired, they opted to hand the reins to the two people who had been running most of the day-to-day operations: Edwards and Neff. Both have been with the firm since its inception.
“It just works for us,” Edwards said. “I could see where, if I were with a different personality type, it wouldn’t work.”
Edwards described Neff’s personality as trustful and open, and admitted she tends to be a bit more direct and demanding.
Neff described Edwards as extremely knowledgeable and focused. Her personality is a little more type A, he said, while his tends toward type B.
The result: They complement one another quite well.
“He likes to make that (personal) connection,” Edwards added. “It’s important to him.”
She noted that Neff’s tech savvy lets the company capitalize on tools that often are only found at larger companies.
“So many of the company’s efficiencies come from Scott,” Edwards said.
Jim Seiler is one of Neff’s closest friends and CFO of Louisville-based Brown Wilson Ventures LLC, a venture capital and private equity firm.
He also helped Neff get involved in the nonprofit world when he invited him to join the board of The Healing Place, a Louisville in-patient addiction-recovery center.
Seiler was the board’s president-elect and was vacating the treasurer’s role. He thought that position was a good fit for Neff.
“As I started explaining the mission to him, you could see his eyes light up,” Seiler said. “I think it’s the idea of being able to do something to assist folks that are literally the most marginalized people in our community. If you are a homeless addict, you really don’t have a voice.”
Neff attended a breakfast there with Seiler and said “the place sold itself.” He had no personal ties to the addiction world at the time but has since had first-hand experience through close friends or family who needed help.
“Being in that place, at that time, it was almost like somewhere, somebody directed me to that organization,” Neff said. “It was a life-or-death kind of thing. Prior to me having any experience with that board, I wouldn’t have had any idea of what to do.”
He served on The Healing Place board for eight years before terming out. He then joined the board of The Morton Center Inc., an outpatient facility that provides addiction counseling for individuals and families.
He’s been on the board for three years and is now the president-elect.
He also serves on the board of the Mattingly Center Inc., a nonprofit that works with adults with disabilities, and is the president of the Cerebral Palsy School of Louisville Foundation Inc., which is loosely connected to Mattingly Center.
“He quietly does all of these things,” Edwards said. “He doesn’t get a lot of attention (for his efforts), and it doesn’t seem to matter to him.”
Neff likes to work hard, but he also knows how to unplug.
He is a longtime participant in the Juniper Club, a fishing group of Louisville-based businessmen that he began attending in the mid-1980s with his father, Clayton Neff, a retired purchasing manager for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.
Four years ago, Neff became a member of the club. Seiler also is a member — the pair even bought a boat together to leave at Lake George in Florida, where the club’s camp is located.
“The beauty of the Juniper Club is that it is so far removed from the daily grind that you get to actually relax and enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship, rather than being worried about the next phone call or email,” Seiler said.
Neff said it is all about unwinding. “It’s almost like moving back into time when you go down there.”
Co-CEO and chief investment officer, The Glenview Trust Co.
Work experience: The Glenview Trust Co., co-CEO and chief investment officer, 2010 to present, principal, 2001-2010; PNC Bank, managing director of investment advisory, 2000-2001; PNC Bank NA, vice president and private bank team manager, 1994-2000; National City Bank Kentucky, vice president and portfolio manager, 1991-1994; Liberty Bank & Trust Co., vice president and portfolio manager, 1989-1991; Hilliard Lyons, tax exempt unit investment trust trader, 1983-1989.
Education: Centre College, bachelor’s degree, economics and management, 1983; Kentucky Country Day School, 1979
Residence: Wolf Pen Springs, near Norton Commons
Favorite vacation spots: Naples, Fla.; Lake George in Jupiter, Fla.
Wife: Michelle Wells, 53, vice president of the Restaurant Hub at Yum! Brands Inc.
Children: Son Parker Neff, 25; daughters Greyson Neff, 22, and Adair Neff, 18; stepdaughter Kristin Wells, 25
Favorite restaurants: Seviche, a Latin Restaurant, Z’s Oyster Bar & Steakhouse, Sidebar at Whiskey Row
Favorite author: Robert Ludlum
Local boards: The Morton Center Inc., president-elect; Mattingly Center Inc., board member; Cerebral Palsy School of Louisville Foundation Inc., president
Sports allegiances: Indiana University Hoosiers; Boston Red Sox
About The Glenview Trust Co.
Description: An investment management, trust administration and estate and financial planning services company
Clientele: Families and individuals
Accounts managed: 450
Assets managed:$5.5 billion
Typical assets:$1 million per client relationship
Interesting fact: Neff said one of the unique things about The Glenview Trust Co. is that it allows its employees to purchase shares in the company. He said that includes everyone from the receptionists to financial advisers to the co-CEOs. While it is not an employee stock ownership program and there is no specific formula to say when employees can buy stock, Neff said, it serves as an incentive for employees to stay with the firm long term. “You think completely differently as an owner rather than an employee,” Neff said.