WE Interviews: Lisa Cohen, Part One

Lisa CohenLisa Cohen

CEO

Momentum Partners, LLC

As CEO of the boutique research and advisory firm Momentum Partners, principal Lisa Cohen is passionately committed to helping clients drive business growth, providing front office executives and asset management firms with the information they need to make sound decisions. Cohen is supported in her efforts by a Chief Business Strategist and junior analysts who decipher data gathered by the firm.

While Momentum primarily serves asset management clients, it also caters to clients who work with asset managers, e.g., investment technology firms and retirement services providers.

The firm specializes in a trademarked research offering, Mometrix Reports™, which the company explains, are “designed to provide C-Suite Executives and Distribution Leadership with the independent information and market intelligence required to grow and retain assets under management in an increasingly challenging environment.”

Cohen launched Boston-based Momentum Partners in 2006, after working for more than a decade as an advisor to senior financial services leaders and as a senior level industry operating executive. Cohen was a Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Product Management, at Evergreen Investments (now part of Wells Fargo), and a Director with John Hancock Funds and John Hancock Financial Services.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Cohen. In Part One of our talk, we discussed what led Cohen to found Momentum and where she finds inspiration.

A corporate background and an entrepreneurial spirit

A dedicated entrepreneur, Cohen has been running Momentum successfully for nearly 10 years now. I began our interview by asking her to outline the path that led to this point. 

“My first job out of college was in a New Orleans brokerage firm. I wanted to move there, so after graduating from Smith College, I got a list of Smith alums that lived in the city—Smithies are absolutely wonderful at networking.

“I interviewed at a number of places and ended up in an operations department, where I discovered that, although a political science major in college, I really enjoyed financial services. A year later, I returned to Boston and got a job in John Hancock’s equipment leasing and financing company. I worked there for a few years and then moved over to the pension business. Hancock was a great company for young women at the time—I had many opportunities, moved up very quickly, and did a lot of different things very early in my career. It was a great experience.”

What, then, I asked, prompted Cohen to go out on her own?

“I had a baby; my first daughter was born in 1994. I came back from maternity leave six or eight weeks after she was born and fell asleep at my desk one day. I thought, ‘This is not who I am as a professional. I need to find a different way to work.’ There was opportunity in the marketplace, and I had a female colleague in the company that I was working with, so we left and started a business together.

“My role in all of my jobs had been in marketing and product management, and she focused on sales, so we started a company that focused on integrating those two disciplines, working with financial services companies. We ran the business for many years, but after 9/11 it became much harder to run a small independent business, so in 2003 I went to work for Evergreen, and in 2006, I left and started Momentum Partners.”

A sense of limitless potential

Having started several companies myself, I know how challenging the process can be. What steps had Cohen taken, I asked, to put her in a position to progress, and to what did she attribute her drive and unerring sense of direction?

“One of the great things about going to Smith College is that you spend four years working under the impression that you can do anything that you want to do, so you enter the workforce with absolutely no sense of limits. I showed up in the workforce and simply ignored a lot of the noise, for example, ‘You’re not supposed to be at this meeting,’ and I just kept going. I knew how to do things, and I did them. You have to be willing to take a lot of risks.

“You have to do things that you really don’t know how to do. For example, I remember my boss at the leasing company threw a pile of papers on my desk and said, ‘Write a syndication book.’ I had no idea how to do that, and I’m not quite sure how I figured it out, but I did. I didn’t know I couldn’t do it, so I just did it.” 

A desire to make it or break it on her own

Although Cohen attributes much of her drive and willingness to take on new challenges to the environment at Smith, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were also someone who mentored or sponsored her along the way. Was there an individual who advocated for her, I inquired, or did she carve her own path?

“I had a belief that I would make it or break it on my own. My maternal grandparents were the strongest parental influence in my life; my grandfather was a Depression baby who graduated from high school, sold life insurance for Met for years, and did very well for himself, despite the fact that he started from nothing. My grandmother worked in her family’s food store as a young woman, and later, my grandfather built houses. My grandmother kept the books—all of my grandfather’s insurance business and the homebuilding business—they were quite a team.

“The pearls I’m wearing today were hers; I wear them to keep me on the straight and narrow. She loved her jewelry and made my grandfather buy it for her all the time, once they had money. They were my inspiration. As a teenager, my grandfather sold cigarettes on the streets of Northampton, Massachusetts, but when he became an adult, he and my grandmother had a beautiful home and a business building Cape houses. Nana wore all this jewelry and I only remember my grandfather driving a Cadillac, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s what people do, and I can do that too!’ It never occurred to me that I couldn’t.”

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By |2018-02-12T19:23:13-05:00May 6th, 2015|WE Interviews|Comments Off on WE Interviews: Lisa Cohen, Part One

About the Author:

Ellen Kinlin is an internationally recognized recruiting specialist in Asset and Wealth Management. With nearly three decades of experience, her market expertise and global candidate base are the most comprehensive in the industry. In 2012, Ellen launched WE – Women Executives, a division of The Kinlin Company specializing in the recruitment of senior-level female executives in Asset & Wealth Management. Read More