PHOTOS BY MARY ANN SABO OF SABO PR,
by Cynthia Price
It is an honor to ring the bell that opens the Nasdaq Stock Market in New York City, the second largest stock exchange in the world and the largest electronic screen-based equity securities market in the U.S.
Last week, Jeffrey A. Ott, a partner with Warner, Norcross and Judd, was part of a team from Chemical Financial Corporation accorded that honor, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding.
The team rang the bell on March 14, the exact anniversary to the day.
But for Ott, an even greater source of joy was seeing his father honored as well.
Alan Ott was the CEO of Chemical Bank, which became Chemical Financial Corporation shortly after he started, from 1971 to 1996. As Jeff Ott says, “I grew up with Chemical Bank.”
In 1917, Chemical State Savings Bank started out with assets of $50,000 in Midland, even before the Depression years, and has now grown to assets of $17 billion. Chemical Financial Corp., through its subsidiary Chemical Bank, has 249 branches and 3500 employees, making it the largest banking company headquartered in Michigan.
Chemical continues its tradition of offering personalized services despite having grown through acquisitions over the years, including maintaining its original location as headquarters, and will have a number of different types of community celebrations over 2017.
Chemical became Ott’s client in 1992, before his father’s retirement, but he feels as if he and the bank continued to grow together.
“I’m their outside corporate and securities counsel,” he says, “and have done all their recent mergers and acquisitions, including the latest one which was worth $1.6 billion.”
Ott, who graduated summa cum laude from Albion College and cum laude from University of Michigan Law School, focusing on the automotive, financial services, and higher education industries, working on mergers and acquisitions, early round funding, closely held businesses, banking and securities law, and other business and corporate services.
He has been named to the Best Lawyers list from 2010 to present, including as the 2013 Grand Rapids Financial Services Regulation Lawyer of the Year. He was also named to Leading Lawyers Michigan in 2014, and won the Lomas Project 250 Leadership Award.
In addition, he is a member of the America Bar’s Business Law and International Law Sections, and the National Association of Stock Plan professionals.
The ceremony, which can be viewed live on the Warner Norcross and Judd Facebook page, was in and of itself very exciting, including reminders that the crowd in Times Square was able to view it.
The master of ceremonies welcomed them warmly, saying, “There are not many banks who have survived one hundred years.”
He noted that Chemical Financial’s 2016 stock performance had outpaced the Nasdaq bank index, as well as Standard and Poor’s, at a whopping 62.12%.
Current Chairman, President, and CEO David Ramaker spoke after that. “Since we started out on Main Street in Midland, Chemical Bank has been all about community, all about passionately serving our clients in the community,” he said.
After that, everyone in the room was instructed to cheer and clap and keep cheering and clapping until told to stop. Ramaker was given a countdown and deftly rang the bell, despite the noise, at the exact right moment.
The only downside? The surprise snowstorm in New York City meant that Ott and his wife, Mary Ann Sabo, had to stay an extra day in New York — remarkably, not a very lively place that day.
“They apparently activated their snow emergency communications and told people if they didn’t absolutely need to go into the city, they shouldn’t. I walked down Fifth Avenue and most of the places were just closed. It was pretty dead.”
Nonetheless, Ott feels it was well worth it. “It was just extremely exciting. There was a second ceremony where they presented us with a certificate, and the presenter said in his memory it’s only the second time they’ve ever done that,” he says.