Principal

Gregory Cowan

The Art of Advising: Beyond the Spreadsheets

I enjoy combining the technical nature of financial planning and investing with the highly personal engagement that I share with my clients and their other professional advisors. My job has, literally, taken me to the four corners of our country.

What has inspired you to stay at Bernstein for as long as you have?

There is an intellectual curiosity that permeates Bernstein. When I joined the firm nearly 15 years ago, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I soon discovered a commonality among the Bernstein people that our founder, Sanford C. Bernstein, described as “The Royal Reach.” In Mr. Bernstein’s eyes, this meant that everyone at the firm had a unique, if not obsessive, desire to excel in business, think creatively and succeed. Perhaps this stems from our heritage as an investment research firm dating back to the 1960s, but regardless of the source, Bernstein’s culture is clearly defined and rooted in research excellence. I am fortunate to sit between the depth and breadth of Bernstein’s capabilities and my clients who all have extraordinarily different circumstances.

Tell me about the types of clients you work with.

My clients have what I refer to as “the privilege of complexity.” I am typically referred to families when something has dramatically changed their financial situation, such as the sale of a business or an inheritance. Or my clients have simply come to the realization that they have accumulated meaningful assets over time and need help making sense of it and understanding their options. Most of my clients have moved beyond the question of “Am I going to be OK?” to wanting to build something meaningful from their assets. My client conversations begin with understanding their lifestyle and continue on to discover their desires, including sharing wealth with family members, charities and other purposes that are dear to them. We then work to implement a coordinated plan that is financially sound and in line with their personal values and priorities. When connected to their plans on a financial, intellectual and emotional level, my clients are in a position for better outcomes.

If you didn’t work for Bernstein, what else would you be doing?

If I weren’t a financial advisor, I would probably be working in a high school as a math teacher and football coach. I’ve always loved football, and my favorite class in college, aside from my accounting classes (of course!), was a class called “Football Theory.” The class was led by the head football coach who, along with his coaching staff, taught us the nuances of football strategy. In addition, he also incorporated sports-related principles of leadership, teamwork, discipline and dedication, which I very much enjoyed learning about because they also pertain to everyday and professional life. As a former accountant and now a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), I’ve always had strong math and quantitative skills. Yet, over the years I’ve learned that I enjoy teaching these concepts and have a knack for making simple what can seem complex and ambiguous.

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