Long before Robinhood, James Cloonan founded the American Association of Institutional Investors to help the small investor take on—and beat—the Wall Street establishment, details a profile in Investor’s Business Daily. Cloonan, who died last year at age 89, founded AAII in 1978 and served as its CEO and chairman until he retired in 2018.
Cloonan was influenced to create AAII after the May Day event in 1975, when the era of high, fixed-rate brokerage commissions ended and individual investors flooded the market. As the article says, those new investors didn’t have a lot of resources. Enter Cloonan and AAII, which also strives to provide transparency about investment opportunities alongside institutional investors.
Even right up until he retired, Cloonan was always looking to bring more people into the investing game, planting the seeds for the younger generation’s interest in stocks. AAII now has 158,355 members, down slightly from its peak of 170,000 in 2017. Cloonan’s son, Harry Madorin, serves as the non-profit’s current VP of operations with John Bajkowski as president, who are keeping in line with Cloonan’s philosophy. “I have come to believe, now, that risk is immaterial for the long-term investor, at least risk as we think of it,” Cloonan said in 2017 and is quoted in the article. “The real risk is. not whether the stock market’s going up or down; it’s whether you’ll have money when you need it, for retirement or education or whatever other purpose you’re going to use it for.”
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