Dallas Investment Firm Eyes Next Generation

FROM LEFT: Van Ogden, John McFarland, and Jeff Helfrich. (Courtesy photo)

The investment company he co-founded is now 40 years old, but John McFarland, of Highland Park, continues to get a thrill from introducing it to people.

“What I really like about it is we’re a homegrown company,” he said. “And it’s a real treat for me to meet young people that want to go into this business [who] I really kind of consider homegrown, also.”

Introducing that next generation of homegrown talent to the company fits into the business plan as Penn, Davis, McFarland begins its fifth decade.

The firm, long priding itself on serving generations of Dallas investors, has started to groom the successors who will eventually lead in place of founders McFarland, Fred Penn, and John Davis.

“We have clients we have dealt with for 40 years,” McFarland said. “We’ve been blessed with the fact that their children and their grandchildren have evolved to become clients, and consequently, our base is much younger than it used to be.”

Principal Van Ogden has been with the firm since 1986, becoming a partner in 1993. A member of the investment committee, his responsibilities include portfolio management and client relations.

Penn, Davis, McFarland office. (Courtesy photo)

“What our business is, first and foremost, is a relationship business,” Ogden said. “It’s an intergenerational kind of business. So, it makes sense for us to have a variety of ages.”

One of the “newer” faces is Jeff Helfrich, though he is no stranger, having known McFarland for 10 years.

Helfrich joined the firm in 2010 after a stint as research analyst for Perot Investments.

He graduated from Harvard and his responsibilities include investment research and portfolio management.

“I knew what kind of person John McFarland was. That, for me, was a big draw,” Helfrich said. “As I learned more about the client base, I learned that we work for some families that are just wonderful to work for.”

Taking McFarland’s lead, the company embraces the idea of mentoring new investment managers. The philosophy is group learning, not only for employees, but also for clients.

“They pretty quickly start meeting with clients in a group setting,” Ogden said. “Ours is an education process in the sense that we want our clients to understand the way we invest, why we invest that way. It’s very much a team approach.”

Penn, Davis, McFarland office. (Courtesy photo)