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Spotlight on AIM Alumni

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Cher Murphy was one of several former AIM colleagues who flew to Houston for the April Happy Hour. Cher was at AIM from 1999 to 2007, where her final position was Associate Product Manager.

AIM lunch

Cher joined i4cp, Institute for Corporate Productivity, as Chief Talent Officer in October 2016 to build a retained executive search practice for this research/think tank organization. Cher advises CHRO’s from Fortune 500 organizations and innovative start ups on attracting the right talent and building their leadership teams. I4cp researches the people practices of high performing organization and uncovers next practices rather than best practices, which drive high performance and have bottom-line impact.

In addition to professional activities, Cher also enjoys hiking in the desert with her Irish setter and Flat Coat retriever and she is on the board of Aid International, a Haitian non-profit.

When Cher joined AIM in 1999 it was at the suggestion of her friend Teri Tansey, in marketing communications. “Teri said AIM hired a lot of young, smart people and if you work hard they give you an opportunity to grow and develop,” said Cher.

Cher’s current role combines her ability to build and be creative in the talent/people space. She feels she learned this at AIM. I learned early on at AIM to be creative. I was encourged to develop and grow into new roles. 

AIM lunch

I worked for amazing leaders including Gene Needles and Bob Cherichella. I learned how to build relationships creatively that would best service AIM’s clients. Bob said listen and then ask another good question. His advice has been the foundation of my career beyond AIM.

Cher Murphy

Cher now works to help client companies attract the right talent, looking for strategic HR leaders, human capital analytics leaders, and transformation and change management leaders. Cher started in search in the investment management space with Heidrick & Struggles and helped place Gene Needles in his CEO role at American Beacon.

Her insights into people and cultural fit had an interesting twist when she was in Haiti on a yoga service trip. Cher met an inspiring woman whose non-profit supports multiple projects including an orphanage for 108 children in Jacmel, Haiti. The woman has one biological daughter who was visiting their home in Haiti after graduating from Harvard University and recently entered the asset management industry.

When I learned Vanessa had gone into the investment management industry and was working in Dallas, I thought of Gene Needles and Amy Neves as good mentors and people for her to meet while learning the industry.

Cher Murphy

A few years later, Vanessa now works for Gene at American Beacon.

AIM lunch

Cher grew up doing service projects and helping others, a legacy her grandparents instilled in her. Cher has been practicing and teaching yoga for over 25 years. Cher traveled to Nairobi as an ambassador for the Africa Yoga Project. She created and taught a program, the business of Yoga, that taught African yoga teachers how to better build their yoga business and be a leader in their communities. It was after this project that Cher traveled to Haiti and she now serves on the Board of Directors of Aid International whose mission is to increase self sustainability in rural areas of Haiti. Cher is active in fundraising, advising the non-profit and helping them develop their board of directors.

Cher’s ability to observe, discern and communicate how people make the difference has been the hallmark of her career. AIM’s book “People are the Product” rang true for Cher, and continues to influence her, her clients, and the organizations she donates her time to.

AIM's book, People are the Product, rang true for Cher, and continues to influence her, her clients and the organizations she donates her time to.

 

 

The annual get-together in Houston is well attended, and while Gene Needles, Chairman, President and CEO of American Beacon makes it each year, others in Dallas have voiced their disappointment that they can’t share in the fun. This year, Gene kindly hosted lunch at his Las Colinas office. We were thrilled to have a few additions from out of the DFW metroplex including Jeff Kissner who lives with his wife Sheila Brown in San Antonio and Michelle Mattina-Eggert who drove up from Austin.

AIM lunch

Gene shared how he grew the American Beacon business along with the good people in the room (referring to those who were at the firm and are now working with him at American Beacon). He said the company is launching a multi-affiliate business to be called Resolute Investment Managers and American Beacon will be the flagship affiliate under the Resolute brand. The firm recently announced their third acquisition earlier this year. The plan is to take the company public at some point.

Burke Bradford, at Nuveen in Dallas, said he likes the multi-affiliate model Gene is pursuing. “Gene is good at bringing on new products”, said Jack Broyles.

Amy Neves agreed, sharing that American Beacon has grown from 5 legacy American Beacon funds to over 25 funds. “We have an embarrassment of riches. We have so many good funds, it is challenging to keep up. I am excited to see where it all goes,” said Amy who works in the marketing department.

Scot Johnson interned at AIM between the first and second years of his Vanderbilt MBA program and accepted a full-time position in 1994. When Amy Vetter returned to Houston from Austin in 2000, their paths crossed - first in the elevator. Amy and Scot share how AIM shaped their personal lives working at a company that was family to both of them.

Amy: My first role back in Houston was supporting the Investments department as an HR generalist while Kay Pierce was on maternity leave. The first time I remember us speaking to each other was when we were riding up on the same elevator one morning. Scot and Brian Thorp were talking about football. Since they were talking about UT (University of Texas) football, I had an opinion that I shared. It probably didn’t hurt that Scot and I had the same opinion.

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Scot: Great minds think alike! It didn’t hurt that she had UT football season tickets and her parents live on a golf course either. We got to chatting regularly at the office and I asked her out on a date pretty soon after that first elevator conversation. She’ll probably say it took me too long to ask, but fortunately I did! I apparently took too long to propose also. Again, fortunately I did!

She’ll probably say it took me too long to ask, but fortunately I did! I apparently took too long to propose also. Again, fortunately I did!

Scot Johnson

Amy: Yep…too long on both counts. (But she is smiling and displaying the engagement ring Scot presented when he finally proposed.)

Amy: My fondest memory of AIM is how much of a family it felt like. We didn’t feel like we worked for a company. We felt like we worked for Ted and Gary and Bob, and we wanted to do them proud. They led by example in every way. There was a right way to do things. How we did things mattered as much as results. “People are the product” wasn’t a slogan. That’s really the principle that drove how AIM operated. We felt like Ted, Gary, and Bob were engaged with what we were doing and with us, and that helped breed the family feeling and the intense sense of loyalty towards them. Another case of leading by example that made working for AIM so enjoyable was the idea that doing serious business like taking good care of the assets people trusted us with didn’t mean we couldn’t laugh and have fun while we were doing that business. 

We felt like Ted, Gary, and Bob were engaged with what we were doing and with us, and that helped breed the family feeling and the intense sense of loyalty towards them.

Amy Johnson

Scot: There are so many stories I could share, but two stories stand out to me. Gary’s daughter Ashley and my sister Stephanie are the same age. Every time Stephanie’s school sports teams played against Ashley’s teams, Gary was there. As busy as he was running the investments department and dealing with AIM’s growing business, he made time to be at Ashley’s games. That was a great lesson and example to me regarding perspective and priorities. The other story is about Bob. I was wearing some sort of AIM gear at the grocery store. The young lady at the cash register asked if I worked at AIM. “Yes, I do,” I replied. She asked if I knew Mr. Robert Graham. “Yes, I do,” I again replied. She then related that her mother had worked as the Graham’s housekeeper for many years and shared some stories about why her mother felt so lucky to work for the Grahams. I replied, “That sounds exactly like the Robert Graham I know. I’m lucky to work for him, too.” Like we said earlier, Ted, Gary, and Bob led by example.

Amy’s last position with AIM/Invesco in 2004 was as a human resources partner supporting marketing before moving into her next role as an at-home mom to Adele (11), Abby (11), and Scotty (4). She is currently a realtor with Greenwood King Properties.

Scot’s last position with AIM/Invesco in 2013 was Senior Client Portfolio Manager before accepting an exit package in lieu of relocating to Atlanta. He lists his current occupation as “trophy husband/at-home dad”, though he is selectively looking for the right opportunity as the next stop on his career path – be it something investments-oriented or “something totally different, but challenging and interesting”.

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.

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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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Ted Bauer and Mike Cemo recognized the value of education, and endowed the C.T. Bauer School of Business and Michael J. Cemo Hall within the Bauer School of Business to ensure, as Dawn Hawley puts it, “a pipeline of talent not just for AIM, but for the greater Houston area as well.” In a similar vein, Glenda and Wayne Dayton endowed their alma mater, the University of Texas (UT), to repay the University they love and to help students realize their own American dream.

The Daytons’ endowment to the McCombs School of Business, the Wayne and Glenda Dayton Endowed Presidential Fellowship, is intended to help prepare scholastically gifted students who have limited financial resources. “We believe in the American dream, in American business and that education is the foundation of both,” Glenda says. “Wayne and I have been blessed with health, happiness, and financial security, and we have both enjoyed fulfilling professional careers. We have been able to meet the challenges that came with those choices, thanks in part to our experiences at The University of Texas.” She credits UT for some of the skills she has acquired in her professional life, saying “my UT degree gave me a tool chest of skills that has made it possible for my professional career to evolve along with our lives.” 

My UT degree gave me a tool chest of skills that has made it possible for my professional career to evolve, along with our lives. 

Glenda Dayton

“I was working in the family business, but during the two years at UT, decided I was interested in joining the corporate world,” shares Glenda. “I entered the IDS sales training program for financial planners. While I was learning to sell investment products I kept thinking, 'I want to be the person coming up with ideas about how the product should be positioned and sold.' I didn’t know at the time what that job might be called, or exactly where to find it, but I knew what I wanted to do. Right before graduation, I received a call from the Director of Human Resources at what was then TransAmerica Funds (now John Hancock),” recalls Glenda.

I didn't know at the time what that job might be called, or exactly where to find it, but I knew what I wanted to do. 

Glenda Dayton

Glenda got the job offer of her dreams: the position of product manager for the municipal bond funds in Houston. The only catch: Glenda knew Wayne couldn’t leave their business in Austin, which meant she would have to commute between Houston and Bastrop. Glenda was hired by Marilyn Miller, and they worked together for two years. After Transamerica sold, Marilyn left to go to work at Oppenheimer Funds in New York. When she returned to Houston a few years later to work for AIM, Glenda joined her. For 11 years, Glenda worked and lived in Houston during the week and spent weekends in Bastrop while Wayne ran the Austin businesses.

Glenda was at AIM from 1996 until 2005. AIM was becoming INVESCO, and with the transition she decided it was a good time to exit AIM and her life as a commuter. Glenda’s final position at AIM was Senior VP and Director of Product Development and Management. Her experience at AIM, she recalls, was one of the most fulfilling of her life.

She recalls how things were when she first started out, and how her position grew and evolved. “When Marilyn hired me there were two product managers, myself and Tisha Christopher, sharing an office and to an extent writing the script as we went along. The role of product manager met with success at AIM and it was soon decided to expand the department with me in the role of manager. In the beginning, AIM had a fairly limited product line, but the funds were very successful in terms of performance and attracting assets, so we soon focused on developing and introducing new ones in conjunction with the legal department. We created in excess of 50 mutual funds as well as designing the 529 college savings program for the State of Nebraska. “It was my dream job – a wonderful job at a wonderful company,” Glenda recalls.

The role of product manager met with success at AIM...It was my dream job - a wonderful job at a wonderful company. 

Glenda Dayton

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“Sometimes it takes some distance to realize how great the trio (Bauer, Crum, Graham) that made AIM was. My years at AIM were rewarding in so many ways – fulfilling, challenging, financially rewarding, and fun, really fun,” Glenda reflects. She also recalls the important roles that women filled at AIM, saying, “Women were given tremendous responsibility and opportunities by Ted, Gary and Bob. Women filled many key leadership roles: my awesome boss, Marilyn, who was the director of marketing, Carol Relihan, our general counsel, the CFO Dawn Hawley, Dana Sutton, director of fund accounting, and more.”

Glenda currently freelance writes for a few select financial clients, works on a number of community-related projects, gardens, reads, and practices swimming which she finally learned last year. In January, Glenda became a trustee on the board of the Bastrop County Historical Society and serves on the fundraising and gift shop committees. “The Society runs the museum and visitor center in historic downtown Bastrop. Over Memorial Day weekend, the museum opened a new exhibit dedicated to the WWII veterans of Bastrop County. The exhibit also includes a collection of war memorabilia donated by local families that includes everything from ration stamps to a captured Nazi flag. “Our committee stocked the gift shop with WWII items for children. Struggling with local vendors to get t-shirts printed on time and according to specs is miles away from designing mutual funds,” Glenda laughs.

Glenda is also a member of The Ladies Reading Circle which, organized in 1897, is the oldest book club in the state of Texas. Members of the reading circle played key roles in making Bastrop the attractive community that it is today. Established in 1832, Bastrop is one of the oldest towns in Texas and the group is credited with founding the town’s library, they began the first adult reading program, founded the Fairview Cemetery Association, and carved out a park where the Old Spanish Trail Crossed the Colorado. This was named the Old Ferry Park, and in 1951 the Texas Legislature designated it as a Historical Shrine. Originally displeased with how the city was caring for the cemetery, the Circle managed Fairview for 119 years until it was turned back to the city in 2005. The cemetary contains graves of veterans dating back to the War of 1812.  In 1952, ladies of the Circle formed the Bastrop Historical Society to protect and preserve the history of the county, opening the Museum the same year.

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Glenda and a small group of other Circle members are now writing a book about those indomitable Texas women. Searching through the Circle’s documents which date back to 1900 and are archived at the Museum’s library, Glenda came across the minutes from 1926. Back then, each meeting began with roll call which involved a question such as ‘who is your favorite short story author?’ The question at this particular meeting was, “How do you plan to get the money for your husband’s Christmas present?”

“It really struck home how these women had no money of their own, no legal rights – yet they created so much of the key social and cultural infrastructure of our town which exists to this day. People drive Highway 71 between Houston and Austin, passing through and over Bastrop with no idea of the history and charm of the town residing along the Colorado River.”

It really struck home how these women had no money of their own, no legal rights – yet they created so much of the key social and cultural infrastructure of our town which exists to this day.” 

Glenda Dayton

Similar to the town of Bastrop, of which Glenda is understandably proud to be a part, Glenda has had a rich history that continues to enrich her own life and the lives of others. Watch this space for information on when the book is released in print!