COO Magazine Q2 2024

Life After Being a COO

Chief Executive Officer at HeliNY

Formerly Chief Administrative Officer at Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management Americas 

Paul is a graduate from Ohio State University, with a double major in Accounting & Finance, later attaining an MBA from Fordham Gabelli School of Business in NYC. He entered Financial Services in 1993 and spent most of his career dedicating his time and service to Deutsche Bank’s Asset Management division, latterly DWS. From 2006 to 2023 his work was found in business management, serving as regional COO for their Institutional Business, and later as the America’s CAO for the combined Asset & Wealth Management Businesses. He appeared tied and bound to a career as a COO, options were unfolding for him to do so, but you can never plan for the unexpected.

Paul is now CEO at HeliNY, the premier provider of helicopter aviation services in the Tri State area. With a fleet of Bell 407 and 427 single and twin-engine aircraft, they offer fantastic sightseeing packages and operate a charter service flying regularly to such destinations as the Hamptons, Atlantic City, Boston, Philadelphia among others. They also provide customised travel experiences to unique destinations in the Northeast, and provide for Airport transfers to JFK, EWR and LGA.

When you first moved into a COO role, was this an accidental step or one by design and intent?

My first COO opportunity enabled me to move from Middle and Back-Office operational roles into the Front Office side of the business. I enjoyed that role very much, working with Sales, Relationship Management, Consulting Relations, and Marketing Teams to support the Institutional Business for Deutsche Asset Management. That move was quite intentional, as I had supported these teams from the Operations department for many years before finally getting the opportunity to represent them in a Business Management capacity.

Thereafter, what is it that committed you to a career as a COO?

I was always drawn to business management roles, as they provided the opportunity to get involved in a wide variety of opportunities, from systems implementations to budgeting and financial projections, to strategic planning and client meetings. The fact that every day was different, with new challenges, kept the role interesting. I always wanted a role that was as wide and varied as possible, so that I could continue to expand my skillsets.

What was the greatest challenge you faced as a COO and what skills proved to be invaluable in helping you meet this challenge?

The biggest challenge I always faced was resourcing. Financial considerations at the senior levels generally permeated down through the organization and limited how much improvements or systems advancements could be made. In moving to smaller companies that weren’t chasing a stock price made investments in the future more achievable and rewarding.

When you left DWS, and took time out, was leaving financial services a likely outcome or just a possibility at this stage?

Financial Services is a tough place to be, especially in these years of industry and fee compression. The trends over the past 10 years or so has resulted in more and more people chasing fewer and fewer opportunities. During this time, I received a lot of good advice, but perhaps the best advice I received was to focus on transferrable skills. 

When I opened my eyes to other roles where I could leverage my COO experience more broadly, I was fortunate to find a role as COO for a management consulting firm, Spinnaker Consulting Group.  While this firm still focused on financial services broadly, it was a different focus, and in a much smaller company. It was an eye-opening experience to move from a major Wall St. bank to small consulting firm, and I loved it.

In April 2023 you were appointed Interim CEO HeliNY, how did this come about?

This was the craziest scenario of my life, and it just goes to show that “you just never know” what can happen. When I left my COO role in consulting, I looked again to other industries where I could leverage transferrable skills, but also leverage the skills and knowledge I had gained in consulting.

My research led me to aggressively pursue a COO role in law firms. Since 2008, Legal firms had recognized the importance of business management roles, and slowly the industry has been hiring non-lawyers to cover their business management functions including marketing, cyber security, and financials. After working with recruiters in this specialized space, I made it to #2 for a large legal firm in Midtown Manhattan.

The Managing Partner of the firm told me how much he really liked my background, but ultimately, the board felt they needed an individual that was also a CPA for their new COO position. He promised to keep me in mind if he heard of other opportunities down the road. Eight months later, out of the blue, the Managing Partner reached out to me to see if I had any interest in an interim CEO position for a helicopter company in NYC as his client was seeking a new one. Five months later, the firm offered me the role on a permanent basis.

Did you have any concerns about being successful in a commercial role in a very different sector?

Surprisingly, no. In hindsight, my transition into a COO role for a management consulting firm gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to do something different.

When the CEO opportunity in an extremely cool industry came up, my answer was “Absolutely!” I knew that the firm had experienced people in Aviation that I could lean on, and I was confident that my previous experiences in business and sales management could be beneficial.

I also looked at this an opportunity to learn something completely new. It’s almost like starting a completely new career, which is something I would have never experienced had I stayed in financial services.

What competencies established as a career COO within financial services have proven eminently transferable and enabled you to be successful in your new role?

What I think people may not realize is just how much a COO role in financial services can help in so many other businesses. Regardless of the “widget” produced, whether it’s investment management, consulting services, legal services, manufacturing, retail, or yes even aviation, all of these industries need smart people with broad skillsets to help run them.

These industries, just to name a few, all ultimately have the same operational issues, from financial management and budgeting to cyber security, to sales management, human resources, and marketing. The advice that I share with others is to forget about the widget that they know and focus on the skills they have and how they can help build a different kind of widget.

How do you determine satisfaction and reward in the workplace in what you do today; is this different and in what way from when you were an asset management COO?

In my COO days in asset management, it was more about execution of initiatives determined by regional and global leadership, and less about what initiatives I could bring to the table. And while I spent many years supporting DWS’s Sales and Relationship management teams, I was never directly responsible for Business Development and expansion.

In my time at Spinnaker Consulting Group, this was dramatically different. Everyone in management was expected to contribute to business development in some way, whether it be direct clients or partnership expansions. That experience benefitted me significantly, as I have learned to leverage those business development and marketing skills in my work at HeliNY.

I love business and partnership expansions. Just recently we went live with a new business division “HeliNY – Air Medical”. This dedicated business will enable us to utilize our helicopter fleet for vital organ transfers for patients in need from airports in the Northeast to hospitals across the Tri-State area. We are also working on partnership opportunities with a corporate jet company, and with electric aviation companies. Our successes in these areas to date have been extremely rewarding.

Is there life beyond financial services, what would you say to someone considering this step?

Absolutely. I highly recommend keeping your options open. It is difficult to grasp the likely reality that the next job they land will be vastly different from the job they had before. Once they grasp that concept it opens a whole new world of additional opportunities for them.

Dog or cat?

Dog – no question! One of my roommates in college had a cat, so I know what that can be like. As a child we had a wonderful dog, and my wife and I have had the benefit of two wonderful dogs over the course of our marriage. Nothing quite compares to that “welcome home” you get from a dog after a long day’s work at the office.

Cricket or baseball?

That’s a tough one, but I guess I must side with American baseball. That said, I learned the hard way in 6th grade that I was not cut out for baseball as a player, and that golf was more up my alley.

Which is your favourite season?

This may seem like the easy way out, but I enjoy them all. It’s one reason that I love living where I do. We can enjoy driving windy roads in the fall and seeing the glorious changing of the leaves, experience snowfalls at Christmastime, benefit from shedding the heavy coats in exchange for sunny springtime walks, followed by hot summers on the beach and BBQs on the patio. I love them all.

One word that defines you


Paul is CEO of HeliNY, New York City’s most established, largest, and successful premier helicopter tour company. For more information visit: HeliNY

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