Her signature smile and gracious manner make Aimee Cogan a welcome face in a field that can, at times, be intimidating. Since her first financial job, as a commercial lender for SunTrust Bank, Aimee has climbed the ranks, earning herself a sterling reputation for her expert analytical skills and strong commitment to her clients and their financial future.
Aimee Cogan, Managing Director – Wealth Management Family Wealth Director, Wealth Advisor, Morgan Stanley, Sarasota
Today, Aimee is a founding member of The Bellwether Group at Morgan Stanley, where she has attained the rank of Managing Director. Emphasizing the human aspect of the industry, Aimee uses her energetic personality to connect with her clients and to better understand their personal circumstances and goals in order to develop a wealth management strategy that gives them increased comfort. She is highly rated in the financial industry and is consistently ranked among the top financial advisors in the nation: most recently as a Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisor in 2014*, Barron’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisor in 2016**, and a Financial Times 400 Top Advisor in 2016***.
Away from the office, Aimee is a wife and mother to her eight-year-old daughter, Bella. She also is very involved in the community, lending her time and expertise to numerous local charities primarily focused on children and education. Earlier this year she was honored by Girls Inc. of Sarasota as the 2016 “She Knows Where She’s Going” award recipient.
In this GRAVITAS interview, Aimee talks about her experience in the financial industry, balancing her work and personal life, as well as her fondness for Sarasota.
I understand you’re a Florida girl—mostly.
I was born in Boston, but we moved to Ft. Lauderdale when I was three. So, I’ve spent most of my life in Florida. My father ran seaports. We came down for him to run Port Everglades. I was between Ft. Lauderdale and Jacksonville for high school. I attended the University of Florida for college, and after graduating with honors with a B.S. degree in Finance, I moved to Sarasota for my first professional career position. Once I got to Sarasota, I never wanted to leave.
What was it about Sarasota that you fell in love with?
I liked the community. It’s such a philanthropic community—and the fact that it was close-knit. I enjoyed the quality of life, the family atmosphere and less traffic. Although, it feels like we’re getting a little more congested these days.
Originally, you went into banking. How did that transpire with your career?
I always had an interest in math and finance. When I was in school, I originally wanted to be an investment banker. The dean of the business school was a mentor and a great help during my career development. He said, “Aimee, if you want to do this, get an MBA, but get work experience first.” Taking his advice, I came to Sarasota to start as a commercial lender for a bank. I started with Sun Bank as a management associate, focused on commercial lending and the private bank. I quickly fell in love with the Sarasota community, which made it very difficult to leave to pursue an MBA.
Sadly, about that time, my grandfather passed away, and I was helping my grandmother with their finances. Working with her during that difficult time, and really helping educate her made me realize how much I loved the personal wealth management side of finance. I knew I had found my niche.
Being well equipped to provide my clients what they needed was important to me, so I focused on pursuing as much education, training and licensing to navigate the financial industry. I also added a number of professional designations, including a Certified Financial Planner CFP® designation, and a CIMA® Certified Investment Analyst designation. In addition, I recently earned the Family Wealth Director designation from Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, which centers on a comprehensive approach to the complex financial needs of affluent families. I’m a self-professed fan of continuing education.
Were you one of the few women in the industry when you started out?
When I started at the bank, while there were many women, the wealth management roles were mostly male-based. Then, when I got to Morgan Stanley, I saw a greater disparity. There aren’t many women in the industry. Around ten percent is the industry norm. We need to work on that because this is a great career for women.
Have you had any women mentors in your career?
Thankfully, I have had some terrific women mentors along the way, both at SunTrust and Morgan Stanley and within the Sarasota community, who were great advocates. They also made sure to highlight the importance of continuing that tradition. Through several financial advisor councils I’ve sat on and co-chaired at Morgan Stanley, I’ve been able to spend time focusing on improving our outreach to women across the country. Not just as advisors, but also, how we are approaching and how we can better serve female clients.
Do you think women have an advantage in being naturally more empathetic in dealing with other women?
Yes, as a female financial advisor there is a natural tendency towards relationship management, understanding and connection. There needs to be a great comfort level and willingness to listen and ask questions—there’s no question that’s too small. There’s a great bond that happens when you are genuinely concerned and connect with a client.
So, you have a daughter. How old is she?
I do, Bella. She’s eight-years-old, and she’s so fun! She’s our little super girl. My husband and I are so proud when we witness positive social interactions with her peers, and her great deal of empathy to those around her, especially given that she’s an only child.
How did your work life shift after having your daughter?
Early in my career I understood the merits of working on a team. So after starting a family, that was the natural next phase in my career development. Soon after I transitioned to Morgan Stanley, I reached out to two key advisors who shared a similar high level of experience and client-service mindset, and we’ve been together for almost ten years. In addition to being able to provide varying specialties for our clients, being on a team allowed me to have a successful work-life balance after having our daughter.
I know that you’re involved in Girls Inc. Can you share a little of what brought you to that organization?
About ten years ago I was exposed to Girls Inc. on a site visit and was absolutely blown away by the organization and what they were doing. It’s inspiring how they’re helping empower and support young girls, as demonstrated in their mission of creating strong, smart and bold young women. So it was a great honor to receive the Girls Inc. “She Knows Where She’s Going” award at this year’s luncheon.
What kind of message would you like to give back to girls today to help them in finding their way?
I always say, “Find the yes.” When obstacles come your way, they may be momentarily distracting, but put your energy and hard work into finding the solution. In addition, you can do anything you put your mind to. Often times this involves reaching out to your network, and looking to mentors, who are usually more than willing to guide you.
Balancing a marriage, a family and a successful financial career can be tough—what have been some of the challenges for you?
It’s definitely all about finding a balance. I find that I focus on work, family, and friends, and at times self-care can get lost in the shuffle. One of the great things, though, about my team, is that we are strategic with our time and clients’ needs—coordinating time in and out of the office, and every now and then time off to get a little recharge; we work on being our best selves, available when our clients need us.
What do you do to de-stress?
I love this workout called Mantra, which is basically an intense Pilates class. It is a class I love taking as often as I can, but I’m pretty active in general. We go paddle boarding and kayaking.
My daughter and I also both love cooking together, and are big Food Network fans. One of our favorite shows and now games that we play, is “Cut-Throat Kitchen.” That’s a pretty fun and entertaining activity, because we have to run to the pantry, get all our ingredients and run out. She’ll take away my knives and replace them with a spoon: “Now you have to cut all your meat with a spoon!”
Does your husband cook?
My husband is a great cook. I got lucky that there’s a balance. He’s a naturally creative cook.
Do you have a bucket list?
Oh, yes. The bucket list is almost all travel related, and I’m working my way through that list. I love to travel.
What’s one place that you haven’t been that you must go to?
I haven’t been to the Maldives. Maldives are high up on the list. I’ve been throughout Africa, and I love Africa, but I haven’t been to Morocco, so that one is also high on my list. The Middle East is as well. I’ve also wanted to go to Dubai. Japan, too!
Do you get to take long trips? You can’t just go to Africa for the weekend.
Thankfully there have been moments on the rare occasion to take extended time away. However, educating our daughter is very important to us, so we utilize her summer breaks to explore other cultures while giving her an expanded view of the world and life.
What would be a perfect day for you?
My perfect day starts with a chance to pop up early and work out. Then I return home and am able to help get Bella ready and off to school. Our morning drive to school is one of my favorite parts of the day, when we talk nonstop, and laugh a lot. From there I dash to the office, where I relish the opportunity to work with my team helping our clients. When I finally tear myself away from the office, hopefully soon I’ll be going home to the new home we’re building, where Bella and I would start our version of “Cut-Throat Kitchen.” We’d run into our fabulous new pantry, get our ingredients, and make a fun dinner together with Chris. That would be my perfect day.
Aimee Cogan is a Private Wealth Advisor with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Sarasota. The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC.
*Source: Barron’s “Top 100 Women Financial Advisors,” June 8, 2015. Barron’s is a registered trademark of Dow Jones & Company, L.P. All rights reserved. Barron’s “Top 100 Women Financial Advisors” bases its ratings on qualitative criteria: professionals with a minimum of 7 years financial services experience, acceptable compliance records, client retention reports, customer satisfaction, and more.
Financial Advisors are quantitatively rated based on varying types of revenues and assets advised by the financial professional, with weightings associated for each. Because individual client portfolio performance varies and is typically unaudited, this rating focuses on customer satisfaction and quality of advice. The rating may not be representative of any one client’s experience because it reflects a sample of all of the experiences of the Financial Advisor’s clients. The rating is not indicative of the Financial Advisor’s future performance. Neither Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC nor any of its Financial Advisors pay a fee to Barron’s in exchange for the rating
**Source: Barron’s “Top 1,200 Advisors,” March 7, 2016, as identified by Barron’s magazine, using quantitative and qualitative criteria and selected from a pool of over 4,000 nominations. Advisors in the Top 1,200 Financial Advisors have a minimum of seven years of financial services experience. Qualitative factors include, but are not limited to, compliance record and philanthropic work. Investment performance is not a criterion. The rating may not be representative of any one client’s experience and is not indicative of the financial advisor’s future performance. Neither Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC nor its Financial Advisors or Private Wealth Advisors pays a fee to Barron’s in exchange for the rating. Barron’s is a registered trademark of Dow Jones & Company, L.P. All rights reserved
***Source: The Financial Times Top 400 Financial Advisors is an independent listing produced by the Financial Times (March, 2016). The FT 400 is based in large part on data gathered from and verified by broker-dealer home offices, and, as identified by the FT, reflected each advisor’s performance in six primary areas, including assets under management, asset growth, compliance record, experience, credentials and accessibility. The rating may not be representative of any one client’s experience and is not indicative of the Financial Advisor’s future performance. Neither Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC nor its Financial Advisors or Private Wealth Advisors pays a fee to The Financial Times in exchange for the rating.
Follow Aimee @AimeeCoganMS