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Spotlight on AIM Alumni

Marilyn Miller: The People Factor Featured

Aug 31 2016

123 2346 400Marilyn Miller shares how she ended up at AIM, and how knowing many of the people at AIM factored into her decision to leave a satisfying job.

Marilyn was in New York working for OppenheimerFunds when Mike Cemo contacted her. There were several people at AIM who knew Marilyn and when Mike decided he wanted to build a product management department, Marilyn was suggested as the person for the job. Marilyn was happily employed in New York, but after she and Mike had several conversations and met in person, she was intrigued by the possibilities to build a department from the ground up, working with many individuals she knew and respected. It was 1996 and AIM was uniquely positioned – the company was growing rapidly.

AIM had a good reputation with a management team that was family oriented in how they ran the business.

Marilyn Miller

“I had a lot of contacts at AIM, including several people who had worked for or with me at Transamerica Funds, and I got a lot of information about working at AIM before leaving my position,” recalls Marilyn. “There was so much potential taking on this role and building a product management function at a time when the company was growing from a limited number of products to expanding its product line, as well as building an integrated marketing department. I knew I had the right experience to do both of those jobs. That is how I landed at AIM. It was an entrepreneurial opportunity for me to be given the chance to build a very broad marketing function within the company,” shares Marilyn.

Marilyn initially worked for Gary Littlepage and was able to hire a number of people with whom she had worked, including Glenda Dayton who came in to help start up the product management function. Mary Kay Coleman who had run marketing communications at Transamerica Funds was running the shareholder and corporate communications functions at AIM. “I was looking forward to working with Glenda and Mary Kay again. In addition, Gary Wendler, a former co-worker, was running the marketing research and analysis function. He was one of the best analysts with whom I had ever worked,” said Marilyn.

The management at AIM gave me the latitude and the authority to do a really good job building a very strong marketing organization with great breadth and depth.

Marilyn Miller 

It was a great group of people to work with. I can’t say enough about Mike Cemo as a sales and marketing leader. I was hired to do something and he and Gary, and later on Gene Needles, let me do it. Marketing in this arena is two pronged: financial advisors who are selling our products and individuals and organizations who purchase those products. We were marketing directly to those individuals and building a recognized brand with a positive association. We did advertising to the public to build awareness of the AIM name. It is more difficult for a financial advisor to recommend a product if the individual investor is not familiar with the AIM name,” shares Marilyn. “The other thing you have, of course, is once someone invests in AIM you are communicating with and marketing to them as a shareholder,” explains Marilyn.

advertising shoot
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Then there was the social aspect. Dawn was a colleague, but also a friend. After she retired from AIM, Dawn worked for the Menil Foundation; I had worked for the de Menils in the 1970s when they had their collection at the Rice University Museum. We shared stories about working in the art world. When Dawn left the Menil, she was looking for something fun and interesting. Dawn and I and another former AIM co-worker, Traci Ayer, came and worked with my husband Bob who was developing culinary apps for the iPad. The three of us worked on business and marketing strategy and my husband was the software developer. You can find Cooking Italian with Giuliano Hazan on the Apple app store. The apps received great reviews from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, PC Magazine, and many culinary publications. Traci and her husband are now working in Denver where Traci does free-lance consulting projects. Prior to that, Traci was in Houston running AIM’s brand and advertising,” said Marilyn.

We so enjoyed working with one another, that after AIM we worked on business and marketing strategy for a culinary iPad app.

Marilyn Miller

Dawn Hawley describes the women she worked with at AIM as trustworthy, smart, supportive, and fun – the best!  

“That was the culture,” recalls Marilyn. “The years I was there, the company was growing based on products, performance and reputation in the business. And the industry was growing. It was not without its challenges. There were regulatory challenges, ….it was a time when marketing was coming into its own in the business and the timing was very opportune,” she said.

“One of the things I liked about working at AIM and the other two investment companies where I worked prior is the complexity of the business. You have a complex regulatory environment, you have the research challenge, you have a lot of communications that can be very complex and which you need to make clear, concise and as simple as possible.

I enjoyed working with a very sophisticated and aggressive sales force who are demanding, knowledgeable and highly educated.

Marilyn Miller

After Marilyn retired from AIM/Invesco in 2005, she began teaching as an Adjunct Professor of Management at the Jesse H Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University in a live consulting project course called the Action Learning Project. She was part of the faculty team for six years. It was a full semester course and adjunct professors like Marilyn provided the real life perspective along with academic professors. In the non-profit arena, Mike Cemo nominated her to the Board of Directors at Houston’s Ronald McDonald House, where she succeeded Mike as chair of the Marketing Committee. They worked together on many of the same projects they shared at AIM, including branding, website development, and communications. Marilyn now enjoys consulting on marketing and management for both non-profit and for-profit organizations. She also has a new business of her own in the start-up stage -- creating products from vintage Japanese textiles.

Bob Making Pasta
Marilyn Bob Longhorn Hats
 

Marilyn and Bob currently spend their time between Houston and the Flying MMM, their ranch property near Mason, Texas. “Bob,” shares Marilyn, “wanted property on the Llano River in the Texas Hill country. He has canoed and kayaked that river for 40 years with friends. We found this property shortly before I retired from AIM. “My husband is a serial entrepreneur. In addition to the Flying MMM ranch, we have a number of business entities with Flying MMM in their names. One of the more adventuresome, for risky start-up ventures, is called Almost Flying MMM,” said Marilyn. Bob also teaches at Rice, advising students on real life projects in Computer Science, working with the chair of the department in a course where students build apps and games.” When not in Houston or Mason, Marilyn and Bob enjoy traveling to many destinations, including their favorites -- Italy and Japan, where Bob co-founded DWANGO Co., Ltd. In 1997. Bob is pictured wearing the Niconico logo on his headband at the 2015 annual Chokaigi live entertainment event in Tokyo. Bob was making fresh pasta for 100 of the 150,000+ attendees. Niconico, part of the DWANGO Company that Bob co-founded in 1997, is a Japanese video sharing site with more than 23 million registered users.

Marilyn is proud of what she accomplished, and grateful for the opportunities she was afforded at AIM, including the great leadership and direction.

The management picked people well and let them develop their talents and skills, and that made for a very satisfying and rewarding career.

Marilyn Miller 
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