Spotlight on AIM Alumni

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Donna Anderson

Barron's named AIM alumnus Donna Anderson, Head of Corporate Governance, T. Rowe Price, as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance.

The 100 women on the list were chosen based on their accomplishments and leadership within their organization, influence within their sector, and the capacity to shape their business or the industry in the future. Donna explains that in her role, “We have over a trillion dollars in assets under management, and we are often a top five shareholder. Through our voting and our dialog we can influence corporate behaviour.” Barron’s decision to recognize and honor influential women in finance comes at a time when business institutions themselves have begun to realize that their long-term competitiveness, and the health of the capital markets, require remediating the industry’s gender gap.

Polly was inclusive, supportive and she let me design my own role. - Donna Anderson

Donna joined AIM in 1998. “Polly Ahrendts had the greatest impact on my career at that stage,” said Donna. “She was director of research and I reported to her for half of my time at the firm. She was inclusive, supportive and she let me design my own role. I designed my corporate governance role for proxy voting, running the proxy committee for the AIM/INVESCO funds group.”

"I am honored to have played a small role in jump starting Donna’s career, and I am so proud of her accomplishments," shared Polly. "When Gary Crum told me about Donna, I interviewed her and not only recognized her smarts, but perhaps more importantly her resilience, grit and initiative. I followed Ted Bauer’s creed: Always hire people smarter than yourself, set the framework, and turn them loose with support and resources. That’s what he and Gary and Bob did for me when they hired me to set up the money market credit research at AIM in 1984. The ripple effects are amazing."

When Polly retired, Donna assumed her role. After the financial crisis corporate governance issues were more front and center. T. Rowe Price created a full-time position and recruited Donna in 2007. 

AIM had quite a bit of female leadership which was unusual at that time- Donna Anderson

Prior to joining AIM, Donna had a variety of interesting jobs including working at a newspaper, at the State Department and then before joining AIM, she went to business school. In addition to interesting jobs, she had the unique experience of reporting to women. “My current role is the first time I’ve reported to a man in my whole career, apart from a couple of short interim periods,” said Donna.

There is no greater reward than for me to see Donna take the baton and do so much more to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. - Polly Ahrendts

Companies with one diverse board member saw a 44% increase in their share price, on average, within a year of going public, according to Goldman research, while those with no board diversity had only a 13% increase. Board diversity is part of Donna’s wheelhouse. “While diversity is growing slowly, absolutely non diverse boards are shrinking fast,” shares Donna. “When we started our policy to vote against non diverse boards in 2017 there were 300 companies in our portfolios lacking diversity and now there are fewer than 80."

Learning of Barron's inaugural list of Top Women in U.S. Finance, Polly was thrilled. "These are issues that are close to my heart, and Dona is a woman that I care about and respect," said Polly. "There is no greater reward than for me to see Donna take the baton and do so much more to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace and at the highest levels in finance and commerce."

Led by Donna, T. Rowe Price is also taking a vocal stance on dual class shares; a controlling shareholder with two classes of stock, like Facebook for example. “We engage with companies and advocate for a time limit on those kinds of structures,” said Donna.

With responsibility for global coverage and covering the entire portfolio, Donna finds there is always something going on.

Says Alison Mass, one of Barron's honorees, who chairs Goldman’s investment-banking division: “This is a business imperative, not diversity for diversity’s sake....This isn’t just about women. It’s about diversity of thought, of background, of ethnicity, of gender....We’re at a moment where people recognize the business imperative of diverse thinking.”

What a celebration to have one of our own recognized on Barron's list.

Thank you to Donna for making time for this interview and sharing pictures from a hike with Polly and a shower where Donna is pictured wearing a hilarious hat.

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


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..