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Spotlight on AIM Alumni

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John Lively says that while it sounds like a commercial, his time at AIM can be best described this way: “There is no question, the people ARE the product. The quality of people at the firm, and the kindness I felt when I was there was exceptional. AIM was a decent sized company, but it still felt like a close-knit family. To this day, I take incredible pride having worked at AIM and often reflect on my time there.”

I take great pride having worked at AIM. - John Lively

John moved to Kansas City to be close to his wife’s family and after three years, John made the decision to strike out on his own. “I wanted more time with my family,” said John. “I needed more control over my lifestyle. I was doing the math and adding up the time I spent commuting back and forth to my office. I was losing weeks of my life in the car alone. I realized my time could be put towards better things.”

His current venture, Practus, LLP is a law firm that is designed to push control back to the attorneys. By leveraging mobile technology, cloud-based solutions, and an agile infrastructure, attorneys are free to work anywhere in the world where they can access Wi-Fi. As a result, the attorneys work efficiently and are more responsive to their client's needs, with more time left to do the things they love. “We believe fundamentally that there are a lot of things about the traditional law firm model that are broken – that are not exactly firm and partner friendly. The name Practus is derived from the words 'practice' of law and 'us'. It is our clients and the law firm coming together in a partnership that benefits everyone,” says Lively.

The name Practus is derived from the words 'practice' of law and 'us'. It is our clients and the law firm coming together in a partnership that benefits everyone  - John Lively

The company distinguishes itself as being an innovative law firm that is disrupting the outdated ways of practicing law. “In many law firms, you are only as good as your last billable hour. We believe there is a lot more to the practice of law than that. We encourage our lawyers who know their clients better than anyone, better than any management group at the head of the law firm, to work out fee arrangements that work best for their clients. Some clients are ok with the traditional fee structure, but others prefer economic arrangements that work with their specific model. Giving our attorneys the control to set it up how it works best for them has been a game changer for everyone involved.”

Practus, LLP is a law firm that is designed to push control back to the attorney.- John Lively

John practices law in the asset management arena and has built a top asset management practice. As Practus expands and evolves John expects to spend more time focusing on growing the firm, but he also wants to continue practicing. Investment management law is intellectually stimulating for John, as is his vision for growing Practus. John starts his day at the kitchen table so he can see his children depart for school, and throughout the week he might catch his daughter’s tennis match or watch his son play lacrosse. With their eldest graduating from Vanderbilt in May, John and his wife Tracey are balancing work and life and putting his model to work for their family.

John was featured on Nasdaq’s TradeTalks in November 2019. See the interview here.
Trade Talks Nov 2019

While it was never on his bucket list, Dennis Leard has served on the Riceville, Iowa City Council for three years and in January he was sworn is as Mayor. “I am not an idle chit chat person, but as an ex-military, we get involved and look to make a difference,” explains Dennis. From city council meetings to flipping pancakes at a Kiwanis fund raiser, Dennis has a full plate!

As ex-military, we get involved and look to make a difference.

Dennis Leard

Dennis and Christine, who is also a veteran, moved to Riceville after Dennis retired from the firm in 2013. “Riceville is a nice little town of 870 people where my wife grew up,” said Dennis. “Her great grandad, grandfather and uncle were doctors in town. We live in the house they built in 1914.”

Like their home, many of the houses were built a century ago. Therefore, Dennis and the city council find their current challenge is the sewer system. “We have a lagoon system,” said Dennis. “With late 1890s and early 1900s homes, the sewer pipes have been infiltrated by ground water. That is not supposed to happen. It should go into the storm drains. Rather than spend 3-4 million replacing it, we have a four-year plan to ensure all homes have a functioning sump pump and only wastewater gets into the lagoon. The city council will develop a plan and determine how to correct the problem.”

Being a small town, there are extended families, and everyone tends to know one another. As a relative newcomer, Dennis is looking to bring an open communication style to the council and residents.

“As ex-military we don’t walk away from situations we can help fix,” said Dennis. “Martin Soames told me before I retired, you guys in the military are something special. You have a different mental attitude. Most of the guys in my group were former military. They knew when I hired them that if you have a question, ask and if you don’t, get it done. In the ‘90s we were upgrading the computers and Henry Caballero suggested a way to save several man-hours. I am looking to continue to operate like that in Riceville.”

You guys in the military are something different.

Martin Soames

Dennis treads lightly.

“I had a 70-year-old disagree with a proposal and he challenged me to step outside and fight it out.” Keeping his sense of humor and listening to some of the history of the town is part of the job.

“Looking forward, I will be mayor for four years. There is a young guy on the city council who graduated high school in 2007 and I could see him take over after me,” said Dennis.

AIM Alumni talent spreads far and wide, and often our colleagues end up back together. In June Andy Andrews joined AIG, and in August Jim Stueve joined the company. There are many AIM Alumni at AIG including Terri Fielder, Cari Baugh, Scott Burman, Ted Etlinger, Christopher Joe, Beth Linesch, Ginger Neal, Kelly Niland and Don Paullo.

Terri Fiedler has been at AIG for 7 years. She joined as Executive Vice President, Strategic Accounts. In May, Terri was named President and CEO of AIG Financial Distributors, the sales organization for the company’s Life and Retirement businesses.

“I have so many fond memories of my time at AIM,” said Terri. “Working at AIM had a positive impact on me personally and professionally.  The Founders (Ted, Bob and Gary) created a culture of entrepreneurship and provided employees career opportunities. They made the employees feel valued and provided strong leadership through the good and the challenging times. I do my best to emulate those qualities,” shared Terri. 

The Founders created a culture of entrepreneurship  - Terri Fielder

"When I first joined AIM I worked in Human Resources and coordinated the New Hire Orientation (NHO)," said Cari Baugh. "At every NHO either Mr. Bauer, Mr. Graham or Mr. Crum would come speak to the new hires without fail. I still remember how much it meant to people – whether fresh out of college or tenured professionals. “People are the product” truly was what the company was founded on."

Cari Baugh, Beth Linesch, Terri Fiedler, Ken Kovar, Kelly Niland and Don Paullo

Beth Linesch has been at AIG for 12.5 years. She is Associate Director of Creative Services/Brand Manager. Her team creates all marketing materials for AIG Retirement Services and Fixed Annuities.

Don Paullo is Vice President, Head of Private Credit Trading at AIG. He joined the AIG private credit team in 2001 after a few years in various other roles on the AIG public credit desk.  

“I respect how AIM’s founding leadership continue to foster the AIM Alumni connections,” said Don. “I have many fond memories as a trading assistant on the money market desk.  I worked for AIM from 1995-1998; it was an exciting time for AIM as AUM was growing rapidly.  I take pride in my years at AIM which gave me a foundation in investment management and set me on my career path to AIG where I have proudly worked since 1998.  AIM managed to recruit some very bright people, and I often come across another AIM Alumni in the Houston investment community.  My manager, Ted Etlinger, is the group head of Private Credit and is a fellow AIM alumnus.”

I respect how AIM's founding leadership continue to foster the AIM Alumni connections - Don Paullo

In addition to building corporate connections, Don builds them in his local community. As of Hurricane Harvey, Don is also known as “The guy with the green canoe” by AIG’s response team. While Don shares that he wasn’t doing anything different than thousands of other people, his story helping others in his neighborhood touched the hearts of many. His efforts to help others started with a dog stuck on a kitchen counter a few houses down the street, to helping evacuate neighbors.

You can see the heartwarming story on Hearts of Heroes.

In 2017, we talked with David Hessel about his career at the firm from 1988-2006. He shared that when he departed, he was still interested in contributing. David followed his 18-year career at the firm serving as the CFO for The Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. He found many similarities between the AIM Invesco years and his role at the Archdiocese. “My roles have involved trying to find solutions,” said David. “This is a key learning that stuck with me.” After a decade at the Archdiocese, David and his wife Lori are moving to their next venture: the grass-fed beef business.
David and Lori Hessel are working to bring grass fed beef to the retail market

 

Today, David and Lori are finding solutions to land management, and translating these learnings to bettering the ranch they have owned for 20 years. “At first,” said Lori, “the ranch was a family retreat. Over the years we became involved in raising beef cattle. At the same time, we are working to restore the land to a better state than it was 20 years ago,” she explained.

We are working to restore the land to a better state  Lori

Trey Wilkinson recalled in an interview how Ted Bauer lived the philosophy that we are put on this earth to produce and every day you should “get up and get after it, keep your mind and body engaged.” David and Lori, like many AIM colleagues, are living that philosophy. For them, it currently translates into their goal to live off the land, and to transition from selling beef wholesale to offering their grass-fed beef on the retail market.

The day we spoke, David was planning to finish the interview and head back out to his tractor, which is air-conditioned and thus enables him to work in the heat of the Texas summer. Even with a tractor from 1980, which has some old school elements, David says how amazing the modernized farming equipment is. The missing piece he added was a radio with bluetooth capability.

Lori has a large vegetable garden

Lori has a very large vegetable garden and is a trained master gardener. In July when the heat ended the vegetable growing season, she went to work canning tomatoes, freezing green beans and peaches. She has jars of salsa, spaghetti sauce, and other food staples lining her shelves.

I am a big proponent of knowing  where your food comes from

Lori

Meanwhile, they are both master naturalists, working to restore their land to a more natural grass land. “If you visualize the last 100-150 years,” said David, “the land had been torn up, turned into farms and the native grasses were stomped out.” There is a volunteer program through Texas A&M to bring awareness of nature, and through a partnership between Texas A&M and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Lori and David enrolled in education outreach programs. “We felt if we better controlled our land, we could be betters stewards, and so we decided to do it on our own,” said David.

The ranch is located about 95 miles directly west of downtown Houston, enabling Lori and David to spend time with two of their three children who live in Houston. They also have parents living within five miles of them to whom they provide care.

Whether they are busy with family or the farm, David says they have a lot of energy out on the ranch. “We sleep well at night. We are physically tired. Life moves on and this is our new adventure,” he said.

David and Lori would love to hear from you, and they can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tracy Sullivan picOn Easter Sunday morning, Tracy Sullivan passed away after a lengthy battle with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Tracy was surrounded by the love of her family, who stood fiercely by her side throughout her diagnosis and treatment. 

Sheri Morris, her colleague and friend at Invesco, shared that Tracy was with Invesco for 21 years and "in that time touched so many of our lives both professionally and personally. She served as the US Funds chief tax officer and was a well respected expert in Funds taxation at Invesco, as well as, a renowned industry leader serving on the ICI Tax Committee and as a panelist. Tracy had a passion and great talent for product structuring.  She met every challenge with excitement and determination to find the best available solutions for Invesco and the Funds’ shareholders. Tracy was a tenacious leader who led by example with integrity and was a fearless champion for her team" said Sheri.

"Tracy faced her illness with courage, strength and determination. Although she was intensely private about her journey, she was comforted by all of the phone calls, visits, and text messages with loving words from many of you.  We will remember her as a wonderful colleague who gave freely of her time, offering advice and encouragement to so many. Tracy’s years at Invesco brought her great joy and she placed the highest of importance on the relationships she formed with each of us. She leaves an amazing legacy behind.  We are all better for having known her and she will be greatly missed," said Sheri.

"Tracy meant so much to me, from her brilliance and wit, to the way she treated others. Tracy, was a strong woman who led a fantastic team," shared Mindi Lowy, a PWC colleague.

"She was a leader, not only for women, but men as well," said Mindi. "It was amazing for me to watch her instantly connect with young team members at our dinners, making them feel comfortable and confident. Through almost every interaction with Tracy, I was able to learn from her. From the way she treated others, the manner in which she cherished her family,and her determination to push herself to go the extra mile."

Mindi has cards in her office from Tracy for various milestones in her life. She has artwork in her office that they painted together. "I think of Tracy and the lasting impression she has left on me every time I walk
in my office and see the memorabilia. I am a better person because of her and for that I will forever be grateful," said Mindi.

There are many at Invesco whom Tracy touched in her two decades with Invesco and she is missed.