On June 11, The New York Institute of Credit (NYIC) will honor Executive Director and 53-year member Harvey S. Gross with its Centennial Award at its 100th Anniversary Celebration. Gross shaped the organization and nurtured it to its 100th milestone, making immeasurable contributions and serving as the face of the organization for decades.
“I know Harvey couldn’t have been there at the outset because he’s not 100 years old, but he’s become so synonymous with NYIC it almost seems so,” says the Honorable Kathryn C. Ferguson, chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey.
Stephen B. Ravin, Esq., partner with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, agrees. “There is no one more deserving than Harvey because of what he’s contributed to NYIC and to the industry in general. He’s been a tremendous benefit and friend to all of us.”
Gross’s long and broad career path is nearly impossible to summarize. He spent 36 years in the factoring industry, including 30 at Bank of America in a number of roles, including credit manager and the head of recovery in bankruptcy and out of court settlements. In 2000, he retired and launched a consulting company, HSG Services, where he continues to consult with factoring firms, asset-based lenders, purchase order financing firms and other specialty lenders. He also is co-founder of CSA2, a cyber security firm. Throughout his career, Gross has been deeply involved in industry groups such as the NYIC, Turnaround Management Association (TMA) and International Factoring Association (IFA), among others.
The Face of NYIC
Gross joined the NYIC in 1964 as a student. “I would not be where I am today without the knowledge gained from NYIC,” Gross says. “It helped me build myself as a business person, and I wanted to share that advantage with others.”
After graduation, he stayed active with NYIC and became a faculty member in 1986. He joined the board in 1988, served as president, then chair, all while building a successful career. After retiring from Bank of America and launching his consulting practice, he became NYIC’s executive director in 2001. Under his leadership, he transitioned NYIC from a college to a not-for-profit educational association. Gross was instrumental in forming valuable alliances with many other associations, such as the American Bankruptcy Institute and TMA, to offer joint events and educational programs, which continue today. He was also a leading force behind creating the women’s division and the future leaders’ division.
“Harvey is a true force of nature,” says the Honorable Rosemary Gambardella of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey. “In fact, I think there’s more than one of him — he does so much. He loves NYIC. He loves people. And that synergy, it works because of Harvey Gross.”
Throughout his career, Gross was proud of the balancing act he maintained, working and volunteering for various organizations, which made all the synergy possible. From the outside, he made it look effortless.
“It’s ironic, when I started my consulting business many professionals told me, ‘You’re spending more time building up NYIC than your own firm.’ And that’s OK, cross-selling is very important. To this day, after 17 years of consulting, many people don’t know I have a consulting business. They think I’m with NYIC 100%,” Gross says.
Gross was active in other credit-oriented organizations in addition to NYIC. As a young professional, he joined Exchequer Credit Club, where he had an opportunity to meet professionals from other disciplines such as accountants, lawyers and lenders. He served on the board, became president and helped the club merge with another organization. To this day he has strong bonds with friends made there.
He also joined the 475 Esquire Credit Club, the longest standing credit club in the finance industry, served on the board and became president. He helped this club broaden its membership with other professionals, a big transition for an organization initially comprised solely of credit executives. In 2002, he was honored with 475 Esquire Credit Club’s Top Hat Award for lifetime achievement and dedication in the credit industry. And in 2015, the IFA asked him to form a chapter in the Northeast. Today he is the executive director and serves IFA members from New England to Virginia.
Key to Success: People
A consummate people person, Gross worked hard to build relationships on a fair and equitable basis. He also credits others with his success.
“I have been blessed to have countless others support my career, too many to thank. For instance, Stephen Ravin was president of [the] New Jersey Chapter of the TMA. He welcomed me in and we’ve had a tremendous bond over the years, working together on TMA and then NYIC,” Gross says.
Known for his innate ability to work a room and for connecting people who can help each other, Gross believes belonging to industry organizations is a must for anyone who wants to succeed.
“The benefits are so many. This is where you learn from others what’s happening in industry and how to handle different situations. For me, there was a real value in volunteering for organizations because I gained a knowledge of how people from different disciplines think. It gave me a better perspective to make valuable decisions instead of just having blinders on trying to do the job,” he says.
His advice for new professionals: “Listen first to what other people say and then focus on how you can interact with them. Business opportunities will come; don’t be too pushy. Seek what others know and how they feel, and then you’ll be able to get your point across better. I see many people go into a room and try to take over the conversation, and that’s not the best way to handle it.”
Keeping board members and volunteers motivated and involved is a difficult task, but Gross has mastered it. “Give them an opportunity to take whatever role they feel best suited for, whether leadership or something else,” he says. “Capitalize on their strengths. For example, if I’m organizing a panel, I ask their input on the topic they’d like to speak about. You’ll get a better presentation when you do. You have to have everyone involved and invested in their roles.”
The Importance of Risk Taking
Such an accomplished and inter-connected career wouldn’t be possible without taking a few risks. Gross’s biggest risks involved becoming a credit analyst at age 22 when he got out of the U.S. Army and becoming a credit manager at age 30. Both were unheard of then. “If you failed, there wasn’t another chance to come back; it was a way to blow your career early,” he says with a laugh.
Becoming an entrepreneur and launching his consulting business after retiring from a 36-year career was another big risk.
“I’d never been an owner, always an employee. That was a big transition. What helped me was all my years of volunteering and forming business relationships and doing extra out of the box tasks; seeing industry issues from the perspective of other disciplines. It gave me an opportunity as a consultant to offer extra knowledge that I wouldn’t have had if I’d been a seat-of-your-pants guy. I took a lot out of my career; I wasn’t just making credit decisions but interacting with other professionals and seeing how they handled their clients, which helped me when I launched my consulting business.”
“I’ve been an advocate for NYIC for over 50 years, and especially the last 25 when I helped it transition into a viable organization. This award represents the recognition of my peers for all that work, and I appreciate it,” Gross says. But he isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon.
“I have no intention of retiring; NYIC is too much a part of me. I don’t look at the different tasks as challenges, but as rewards. I enjoy the camaraderie and working with the next generation. Although June 11 will be a big day, after we complete this centennial, I’ll be working with the team on how we’re going to handle the next 100 years.”