50 Years of Investing in Memphis
April 1, 2019,
As Memphis celebrates its 200th anniversary, well-known corporate citizen Duncan-Williams, Inc. marks a momentous milestone as well — 50 years of serving the nation’s investors from its Memphis home.
Founded in 1969 by A. Duncan Williams, the firm started out as a regional municipal bond firm, selling bonds for public projects to town banks and other fixed-income investors around the country. Memphis was a high-flying bond center at the time, and Williams set out to build a solid business based on trust, long-term relationships, and loyalty to employees. As the bond industry matured throughout the 70s, Duncan-Williams was well positioned to not only survive, but thrive.
Duncan-Williams continued to grow through the 1970s and 1980s, adding clients and offices across the country. Tragedy struck the firm in 1989 with the sudden death of A. Duncan Williams. But the principles he built the business on 20 years earlier served it well as his wife Carolyn Williams took the helm. “We had the trust of our customers, the experience of long-term and loyal employees, and the respect of our competitors,” she recalls. “That could have easily been the end, but we did it.”
The business continued to thrive under Carolyn Williams, who led the company for 11 years, and still remains its major stockholder and Chairwoman. Carolyn and Duncan’s son, Duncan F. Williams, became CEO in 2000, and by 2010 the firm had 170 employees and offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Seattle, Cleveland, Atlanta, and other cities. Duncan-Williams, Inc. then went on to spin off a highly successful private client business four years ago, doing business as Duncan Williams Asset Management.
As CEO, Duncan Williams has also continued his family’s commitment to the community, sponsoring so many community organizations and causes that the company has earned extraordinary name recognition. “Though most of our customers are out of town, Memphis is where we live. It’s where our families live. This is the place that made Duncan Williams, Inc. possible, and we are all driven to do our part to make Memphis the best it can be.”
“Our business is complex, but our approach has always been simple. When our clients do well, our employees do well. And when our employees do well, our company does well. And because our company does well, we can do so much more to make sure Memphis does well.”
— Duncan F. Williams, CEO · Duncan-Williams, Inc. —
The list of investments in the city is far too long to enumerate, but it includes major support of the the St. Jude Dragon Boat Races, Ronald McDonald House, Germantown Performing Arts Center, Grizzlies Foundation signature mentoring program, the nationally recognized Indie Memphis Film Festival, and long-time title sponsorship of Memphis Botanic Garden’s world-class “Live at the Garden” concert series. Williams was also one of the original founders and co-chairs of The Chairman’s Circle, a large group of business leaders that is working with the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce to advance bold initiatives for the community.
As the city spends 2019 celebrating the people and institutions that make Memphis what it is, that story would certainly be incomplete without a nod to Duncan-Williams, Inc.