MSU Billings' Inaugural Hall of Fame Class of 2014
Five decades after Ian B. Davidson joined his father’s humble two-person brokerage firm, he watches over the vast brokerage firm D.A. Davidson as emeritus chairman of its holding company, Davidson Companies.
When Davidson arrived in 1958 at the firm, then called Gibson Associates, the two-person brokerage had been struggling for about a decade.
“The business was not particularly a successful operation at that time,” Davidson said.
A freshly minted graduate of University of California-Berkley’s business administration master’s program, Davidson came with a strategy for expansion he had created for his MBA thesis.
“Why, I had a plan when I came back,” Davidson said. “I was prepared to take what I had learned at Berkley and turn things around.”
The firm joined the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange as a corporate member seven months after Davidson’s arrival, and in May 1959, it opened its first branch office in Helena. Soon after, the firm was renamed D.A. Davidson in honor of his father, David Adams Davidson.
Now one of the largest regional investment firms not based on Wall Street, Davidson Companies is composed of four investment and wealth management firms. The company’s 1,350 employees work from offices in 24 states in 86 locations, delivering financial services, recommendations and products.
With headquarters in Great Falls, the space occupied by the original brokerage office is today part of the lobby of the five-story Davidson Building, located at 8 Third St. N.
But, success doesn’t come easy, 82-year old Davidson said.
“It takes a heck of a lot of hard work,” he chuckled. “I worked banker hours, early mornings and late nights, everyday for many years.”
Davidson attributes much of Davidson Companies’ success to its associates, and the
fact that the company is employee owned.
“Any organization is only as good as its people,” Davidson said. “By treating people well, that’s how you do well in any business.”
Davidson’s commitment to taking care of his employees is evident in the time he sets aside each day to personally call or email people celebrating a birthday.
This same amount of care is apparent in his philanthropic endeavors, especially when it comes to Montana’s education system.
“If we are going to have a viable, energetic state, then we must place our focus on education,” Davidson said. “Youth are the backbone of our nation, our state. Therefore, that’s something we all should invest in. They are our future.”
Alongside Davidson’s master degree from Berkley, he holds a bachelor’s degree and
a 2003 honorary doctorate from the University of Montana.
Aside from his career in business, Davidson served in the Air Force from 1953-1955 as a second lieutenant and was a finance instructor at the University of Montana for one year.
He has served on numerous community and business-related boards and has been awarded with several significant achievement awards.
He and his wife, Nancy, have three children—all UM alumni—and nine grandchildren. His son, Andrew, represents the third generation of the Davidson Company as president of Davidson Investment Advisors.