NOTEWORTHY

President & CEO | Jeff Whitaker

Washington Business Journal – 10. 2021: For Jeff Whitaker, stepping into the role of president and CEO of Chevy Chase Trust marks a full circle moment.

Born and raised just a few blocks away from the trust’s current offices in Bethesda, Whitaker went on to stints outside of the region at Bridgewater Associates, Berkshire Partners and JPMorgan Chase & Co. He accepted the role at Chevy Chase Trust early this year after a nationwide search to replace the firm’s previous leader, Peter Welber, who had held the CEO title for 17 years.

The firm — which held $32 billion in assets under management as of 2020 and employed 110 people, per Washington Business Journal research — has been embracing remote work and virtual sessions to help expand its client base. “The Zoom meetings are here to stay,” Whitaker said.

How has the pandemic changed your leadership style?

It’s required me, and I think a lot of leaders, to be very intentional in ensuring that you have a consistent level of engagement and interaction. For us, that’s meant probably holding town halls two to three times more frequently than was the norm before I arrived. It’s also meant having a more regular series of one-on-one and group meetings than would normally be the case. 

This brings you back to D.C. How many years has it been since you lived here?

I’ve actually had two previous stints in Washington, D.C. I lived just a few blocks north of our offices in Bethesda when I was born. My father was at Navy Medical finishing his Vietnam-era service. And then I lived here for four years after college, working for The Advisory Board Co. In many ways, it’s been a wonderful return home. My wife’s family is here as well. 

How has business in the region changed since you’ve been gone?

When I was here in the early-to-mid ’90s, I think you’d still characterize Washington then as a government-focused town with a fairly nascent private sector. I’ve been impressed with the increased breadth and variety in those different industries. I have also just been impressed by the level of real estate development growth and the way that the District in particular has really advanced during that time. I have a 20-year-old map from when I did last live here. And I’ve had to make sure I don’t use it when I drive because, you know, things have changed enough that it’s not terribly helpful. In fact, probably dangerous. 

What do you enjoy doing away from the office?

One of the hobbies that I actually came back to during the pandemic that I really enjoy is flying with a private pilot’s license. I got into the cockpit of a plane for the first time in 30 years during the pandemic. My family and I also really enjoy skiing and tennis. And then, you know, one of our favorite pastimes is watching a lot of football on Saturdays and Sundays. My wife’s a longtime Washington Football Team fan. Having grown up in the South, I’m a longtime Alabama football fan. And our son has inherited a lot of that as well. 

What plane do you fly?

I fly a plane called a Piper Warrior — just a simple single-engine plane. And I have yet to fly in the D.C. area. There are a lot of restrictions there. I still fly up in the Northeast and Massachusetts, Connecticut, where we’ve spent a lot of our time. Eventually, I’ll make my way down here, and I look forward to doing that. 

You also have a family farm that you help manage in Arkansas. Why is that important to you?

The tangibility of farming is incredibly appealing. Just that notion of: You put a seed in the ground, you nurture it and then you harvest this real thing that you can use. It’s wonderful to have that in the family. I really enjoy getting to spend time with my sisters, helping to run that farm and make good decisions about the investments we make. We work with terrific people there locally. And it’s great to continue to be a part of that community, albeit at a distance. I try to get back once or twice a year. If I can schedule it around the planting or the harvest, I just enjoy getting out and walking the land. 

— Interview by Emily Van Zandt 

Important Disclosures