The origin of Cullen Cioffi Capital Management traces its roots back to a classroom on the third floor of the Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati several years beforehand. It was in this classroom where co-founders John Cioffi, III, and Ryan Cullen would meet. Ryan was a senior in his last semester of his undergraduate finance degree and John was an associate professor that teaching a "Markets and Trading" class. Over the course of the semester, John and Ryan developed a mentor/mentee relationship which blossomed into a friendship (and eventually, this partnership). After Ryan graduated, he began his career working at Morgan Stanley. "I wasn't able to help the people I cared about most because of the firm's steep minimum asset requirements. I did all the financial planning in the Great Lakes region and had access to client returns - and they were always subpar. I realized Morgan Stanley was just a name brand, but that I could do better for my clients by going independent then staying there. Five minutes after I officially left Morgan Stanley, I was filing the paperwork for Cullen Investment Group". Ryan knew nothing about starting a registered investment advisory firm from scratch but luckily he knew someone who did, his mentor John Cioffi.
The "Dream Team" of Ryan & John - Ryan pictured on the left, John on the right
A few years pass, John is still running Vertice Capital Partners as well as a Hedge Fund while also holding a role as a professor of finance at the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business. Meanwhile, Ryan is still running Cullen Investment Group and has grown it from one employee to having a team of over a half-dozen talented employees. John and Ryan stayed in touch over the years and were catching up with each other at a coffee shop, talking about life as well as their respective firms when the idea of Cullen Cioffi was planted. "We knew our shared philosophies and ethical standards were a perfect fit and knew a collaboration would be a synergistic advantage for clients and employees. We just knew that we complimented each other so well and both brought different skills and experience to the table," Ryan recalls.
For me, this was a no-brainer. I had John as a professor and mentor so I knew just how brilliant of an investor and trader he was. Obviously, you can look at his résumé and see that he is more qualified than 99% of people. He has a Masters degree from the University of Chicago in Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, has decades of Wall Street experience as an options trader, equity derivatives trader, been a Managing Director, ran a hedge fund, ran a real estate fund, started an RIA firm and that is just the SparkNotes version of his experience. I love my clients dearly and as a fiduciary I am obligated to always act in their best interests and while my firm crushed benchmarks in 2020, beating the S&P 500 by over 70%, I am well-aware that John is quite literally the best at what he does - and that is making money for his clients. Was it difficult giving up having 100% control of a business? No, not at all, because I knew that John had the highest integrity and character and that having him on our clients' team would be in their best interests because he brings knowledge, experience, and skills that you quite literally cannot replicate.
He’s extremely bright; he was one of my best students. But more impressive to me was his desire to genuinely help people. And it’s this shared philosophy, one of giving back to our community, demonstrates that Ryan held on to many of the core messages I layered into the many lectures he had to endure in my classes. All kidding aside, we take our responsibilities seriously. We value equality not just in helping our clients, but in the way we set the tone of the culture of our firm. We believe in the individual, that we are uniquely and wonderfully created as God intended. And in the belief of basic human rights, is the ability to seek financial security, freedom, and independence. Through our financial education and community outreach interactions, we believe that all communities and striving business owners should have access to financial tools and resources to help them navigate their journey. We want to be there to help them accomplish their lifelong goals and meet their family's objectives.
So in a commitment to doing what's best , John's firm, Vertice Capital Partners, and Ryan's firm, Cullen Investment Group, have joined forces to create Cullen Cioffi Capital Management. With the new firm, Cullen Cioffi, every aspect of each individual firm's capabilities is enhanced and we are able to provide stronger client relationships, better investment solutions, state-of-the-art financial planning, a more robust equity research division, and ultimately, the most elite team a client could possibly have in their corner.