Aimee DeMariano Cogan
The Art of Numbers
By Ed Bertha
Photography by Giovanni Lunardi
Rated one of the Top 100 Women Financial Advisors in the nation by Barron’s Magazine, Aimee Cogan’s congenial personality masks the passion she imparts to her clients and their financial portfolios. “It requires an understanding of each client’s personal circumstances, their time horizon, liquidity needs, risk tolerances and, most importantly, their personal goals. The art is then in developing a wealth management strategy that allows them to sleep at night,” she explains.
“Genuine concern for our clients is the foundation upon which we have built our practice. We intentionally keep our client list small because we become very much like family.” Aimee Cogan
“I was always strong in math, and knew I wanted to work in a related field. Around the second grade, I was writing stories that were an early sign to my parents. ‘Sally’s Mom gave her money to buy a loaf of bread at the store. On the way, she stopped and bought a house with some of the money. Her mom was angry but later Sally sold the house for a profit….it goes on!’ So, it was easy to see that math would play a role in my future.”
Born in Boston, Aimee moved with her family to Ft Lauderdale at the age of three when her father assumed the management of Port Everglades. A later move landed Aimee in Jacksonville, where she enrolled at Bartram, a college prep school for girls. “While at Bartram, I would join my father on various outings to business and community events. As my Dad’s frequent companion, I became comfortable in the company of business and community leaders at a relatively young age.”
Aimee then attended the University of Florida where friends remember her setting the grade curve on exams while also managing a demanding work schedule. “I worked through school at the Outback Steakhouse, which was a great way to develop a focus on customer and client service. The demanding load at school combined with the Outback training and work regimen instilled a strong work ethic in me.”
After graduating from the University of Florida with honors, and a major in Finance, Aimee planned to continue on to the school’s MBA program. Fortuitously, the Dean of the business school suggested that she consider gaining a minimum of five years’ work experience before working on an MBA. “I initially wanted to move into investment banking, but trusted his advice.” He also asked if she would be interested in spending a year preparing real-world business case studies in conjunction with the MBA program. Aimee agreed and it turned out to be a career path diversion with a practical appeal. “It felt like the best of both worlds and certainly gave me jump start and a rare insight.”
Finished with case studies, Aimee began interviewing with banks across the southeast including SunBank, (now SunTrust) in Sarasota. “I had family living nearby, at the time. I loved the setting, and strong sense of community here.” Upon accepting that job, she became one of the bank’s first management associates. “I spent the first few years in commercial credit, underwriting and lending, but really enjoyed the wealth management side of the business.”
Having worked the five years recommended by the Dean, Aimee was now at a crossroads. “I had grown fond of Sarasota and didn’t want to leave. I thought, why leave, go back, get an MBA and start from scratch. I saw few, well established, investment banking operations in Sarasota but recognized the potential opportunities within personal finance. I felt that wealth management was my best career opportunity and it was something that I really loved.”
A Saturday morning finds Aimee reviewing the week’s market activity before settling into another chapter of John Mauldin’s End Game.
The death of Aimee’s grandfather reaffirmed her decision. “During 50 years of married life, my grandfather, like many others of that generation, handled most of the financial matters in the household. When he passed-away my grandmother didn’t know what investments they had or what to do with them.” Aimee worked with her family to construct a comprehensive wealth management plan for her grandmother and helped them avert some difficult situations in her later years. “Knowing I could help many clients in the same circumstances confirmed my decision to enter the field.”
Aimee spent the next 12 years at SunTrust, where she was licensed in securities and insurance, and then became a Certified Financial Planner. She spent most of those years as one of the top 5 advisors in the company nationwide.
After her marriage to Chris in 2003, the prospects of starting a family began to enter into the picture. “I needed a position and working environment with more flexibility to raise a family.” As a top performer in the region, the major financial institutions were making inquiries about her on a regular basis and offering the flexibility she sought. One of those was Morgan Stanley.
An initial meeting or two at Morgan Stanley led to an interview with John Mack (Chairman and CEO at the time) at the company’s headquarters in New York. That meeting sealed the deal for Aimee. “There was no question about moving to Morgan Stanley.” Joining the firm in 2006 Aimee soon became one of their top producers in the region, an honor she has held every year since.
Aimee was invited to serve on Morgan Stanley’s elite Financial Advisors Council from 2006 to 2009. Consisting of 16 members, selected from the top of the firm’s 18,000 advisors, the council meets regularly with senior management in New York. “We reviewed and analyzed virtually every aspect of our business from the markets to investment products and services, technology platforms and, client service initiatives. My term on the council provided insight into the firm’s impressive resources and an allowed me to contribute to making those resources more accessible to our clients.”
Aimee’s regular trips to the firm’s headquarters in New York and her close work with senior management have resulted in valued relationships. “I joined Morgan Stanley because I believed in the people running the firm and that trust has been reaffirmed in the years since.” Several members of the senior management team, including the Chief Investment Strategist, have become close friends and trusted mentors. “They’ve had a positive impact on my life, both personally and professionally.”
Access to Morgan Stanley’s top minds helped Aimee develop a disciplined approach to wealth management. Investing in this climate is challenging, and a client’s asset allocation is critical to a portfolio’s success. “We focus on how our underlying managers are performing, not only for the short term, but how their performance tracks over the longer term as well. When a manager is outperforming the markets, we need to make sure they’re not taking on too much risk or going outside of their charter with what is called ‘style drift’. We’re not afraid to do the heavy lifting when it comes to protecting client’s assets.”
Hats and Horses
When Aimee first arrived in Sarasota, a friend with strong ties to New College introduced her to Pique Nique, a fund raiser for the college. Aimee’s involvement with New College and Pique Nique grew over time leading to an invitation to Chair the 29th annual event this month. “The event includes an elegant luncheon, sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue, and raises money for the New College Library Association. “All of the ladies wear hats. In my early years of attending, I didn’t have any fun hats, so I always borrowed them.” That would soon change as the Kentucky Derby entered Aimee’s life.
“My husband, Chris, is from Louisville, home of the historic Kentucky Derby. Of course, every year you need a fun hat, and actually more than one for this time honored, social and cultural event. You need one hat for the Oaks (the day of races featuring fillies on Friday before the Derby) and another for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.” Aimee and Chris regularly invite friends, which has helped build a strong contingent of Derby fans in Sarasota. “It’s an event people should definitely include on their bucket list,” she adds.
“Like many, I have fun with fashion. Because of my financial background I like to buy at a discount. So, I have found probably as many great hats at T.J. Maxx as I have at Saks. I can go across the board. My favorite hat is one done by Christina Moore, a designer from New York. I was featured on ESPN as part of their Derby advertising wearing it a few years ago. The spot was aired nationally hundreds of times and we were getting calls from friends all over the country.”
Asking if her approach to fashion is all about the ‘art of the hunt’, Aimee leans forwards and enthusiastically asserts: “Absolutely, and if you can get it at a discount it was a successful hunt!”
Shoes; A Girls Best Friend
Every girl loves shoes and Aimee is no different, but for a different reason. A local philanthropic event pushes her competitive button to find the ultimate pair of shoes. “Wine, Women and Shoes is a fund raiser for Forty Carrots, a local non-profit organization that provides parenting outreach programs for families in our community. So it’s a great combination, of having fun and supporting a very good cause.” And, once again it is about the art of the hunt. “Chris and I were in an outlet mall in Orlando and he called my attention to what he referred to as a crazy pair of shoes. Of course, I loved them, and they were just crazy enough to win!”
Wine, Women and Shoes currently hosts fund raisers in twenty cities across the United States. To help the organization launch into a new market, Aimee recently introduced founder, Elaine Honig to sister-in-law, Shannon Hori Cogan, a news anchor for CBS in Miami. “I put the two of them together and they did their first Wine, Women and Shoes event earlier this year raising over $250,000 for All Children’s Hospital in Miami. It was gratifying to connect them and see the result. Connecting people is one of the things I enjoy most.”
The Bellwether Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Coming to Morgan Stanley on her own in 2006, Aimee’s reason for change took hold the following year with the birth of her daughter, Caragh Bella. At that point she made the decision to assemble a diversified team. To create the strongest possible group, she sought out other top advisors with complimentary skill-sets. The selection process was rigorous and resulted in The Bellwether Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney which consists of six individuals from multiple strategic disciplines sharing the same passion for their client’s financial well-being.
Aimee makes quality time with the family a priority. Bella refers to them as “three buds together”.
Aimee explains, “I approached Rich Williams and Scott Rockwell because I always had great respect for them as competitors in the Sarasota market.” Rich holds the Chartered Financial Analyst TM designation, the most prestigious in the field of fundamental stock analysis. He manages the Group’s core investment portfolio which serves as a stable investment vehicle and a hedge against volatility and risk. Scott is a technical analyst and he runs the Group’s equity growth portfolio. Rich and Scott both oversee the group’s fixed income portfolio’s as well. As a Certified Financial Planner TM and Certified Investment Management Analyst TM, Aimee’s focus is on separately managed accounts, alternative investments, precious metals and foreign currencies. Together, the three of them form The Bellwether Group’s investment committee. To summarize the team’s approach, Aimee states, “We remain focused on effectively deploying capital and managing volatility, and are always tactically evaluating anomalies in pricing and market opportunities.”
Aimee and Chris Cogan
Aimee’s husband Chris, a successful technology entrepreneur and private equity investor, joined the firm in 2010 to serve as The Bellwether Group’s managing partner. Chris holds the designation of Certified Commercial Investment Member TM and is uniquely qualified to advise on business matters including, mergers and acquisitions, expansion capital, initial public offerings, exit strategies and, commercial real estate.
Assisting all of them are Melanie Barber and Linda Mikos. Aimee adds, “I must admit that Melanie and Linda really run things at the practice management level.”
Much like the rest of Aimee’s world her team operates with the efficiency and precision of a Swiss watch. Chris is an entrepreneur and brings the type of out of the box thinking and experience which makes our clients’ small businesses successful. Rich has been in the investment business for over 20 years and has taken clients through two significant bear markets and their subsequent recoveries. Scott adds eleven years of commercial banking experience to his 11 years in the investment business. The four of them approach problems and situations from different perspectives, but they use these perspectives to give their clients the best possible solutions to their respective financial situations. Working with this team is a bit like assembling the perfect outfit. It doesn’t matter if they start with the shoes, the dress, or the hat – when they blend it all together it works really well for their clients.
The bottom line for Aimee and her team is taking care of clients. When clients can tell her “Even with all the uncertainty in the market, I can still say I’m comfortable with the portfolio and trust what you are doing.” This is why she is here. It goes back to the situation with Aimee’s grandparents. Helping people with complex circumstances is what she enjoys and the satisfaction she gets when it is done well is one reason she has been so successful.
Copyright © 2012 REAL Magazine
Links to this article are encouraged
Photography used under license from Giovanni Lunardi Photography
Photography Copyright © 2012 Giovanni Lunardi Photography
Tags: Aimee Cogan, Aimee DeMariano Cogan, Bellwether Group, Chris Cogan, Financial Advisor, Financial Planner, Investment Advisor, Linda Mikos, Melanie Barber, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Rich Williams, Sarasota, Scott Rockwell