This interview was written by Nicole Melancon and originally appeared on the Impact Hub MSP’s Blog
Susan Hammel is the founder and president of Cogent Consulting, an independent, Minneapolis-based strategic, financial, and impact investing firm empowering purpose-driven organizations that drive positive social impact in their communities.
Cogent Consulting applies traditional investment discipline, community engagement, and creative design to impact investing and strategic advising. They work with a diverse set of mission-driven investors and entrepreneurs through evidence-based and actionable advice.
We had the opportunity to sit down and learn more about Susan’s background and what drove her to launch Cogent Consulting. Here is what she had to say.
Tell us more about yourself and your background.
Susan: I am the founder and president of Cogent Consulting. We are a public benefit company with a mission to empower purpose-driven organizations to drive positive social change in their communities. I was trained in finance and worked on Wall Street. While I was there, I was struck by the powerful notion that money can be used as a force for good and came up with the idea of founding Cogent Consulting as a way to help organizations figure out how to invest according to their values, mission, and passion.
What was it like working on Wall Street?
Susan: Being on Wall Street was a huge culture shock especially since I worked for a small non-profit before coming to Wall Street. At the non-profit, I saw that despite the enormous amount of passion and energy the staff had, we still couldn’t do more to create change. I realized that I needed to go where the money was so I moved to Wall Street to learn the investment industry with the goal of bringing that knowledge back to the non-profit world.
Five years later I went to grad school at Harvard where I learned about government and the public sector which gave me insight into how I could harness my passion for helping organizations invest to make a positive social impact. I moved to Minneapolis, began working in this area and then launched Cogent Consulting.
We are advocates for people who have a passion for their work and a commitment to creating their own success. Our financial acumen is balanced with demonstrated leadership ability, appreciation for the values of people we assist, and an innate ability to communicate effectively. We empower individuals to achieve their organization’s mission, and in turn they shape lives and make a difference in their communities.
– Susan Hammel, CEO
What have you learned since founding Cogent Consulting?
Susan: That “doing good” means different things to different people. For me, I have faith-based values and social justice, taking care of the earth and people are very important to me. Clients have a variety of different issues that empower them to do good ranging from climate change to racial injustice to sustainable agriculture. Good can be defined in many different ways.
Why did you choose finance as your focus?
Susan: In social impact, sometimes it is hard to know if you are making a difference however with finances you have concrete ways of measuring your impact and that can be very empowering.
What makes you inspired about your work?
Susan: I bring passion to work with me every day. I am excited to bring the finance piece of work into the social justice and impact sector, to marry the two worlds and create something better. Many people think you can’t do well and good at same time. However, I’m here to show people that you can make money and do something positive. If everyone thought about where their money was invested, it would change the world and that excites me.
How long have you been a member of the Impact Hub and what do you like about being here?
Susan: I have been at the Impact Hub for almost 4 years and I love the new space. I love the positive environment, and how active the social impact community is here at the space.
Top of my mind these days is investing in line with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion values. Many institutions promised bold moves after George Floyd was murdered. Who is following through and doing this well? Racial justice requires new pathways for capital flows. I’m excited to be part of the McKnight Foundation’s Groundbreak Coalition, aiming to deploy $2b in flexible capital over 10 years to disrupt the status quo. In Minnesota we are a generous state, a charitable state, a hard-working state: we need to try new approaches to create that famous quality of life for all. We are leading a session on Place Based Impact Investing at the Mission Investors Exchange conference in Baltimore. Reach out if you’ll be there so I can include you in the informal MN meet-ups.