Washington Research Group Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary at Cowen

In August, the Washington Research Group marks its five-year anniversary of becoming a valued addition to the award-winning Cowen Research division. Since joining the Cowen family in 2016, the 45-year-old Washington Research Group has continued to produce cutting-edge analysis of government policy and regulatory affairs as it relates to investment strategy.

To honor the milestone, the Washington Research Group’s senior policy analysts answered questions about Washington and Cowen. We also learned a little more about them on a personal level, too, like their favorite concerts and vacation spots. Please join us in wishing Eric Assaraf, Paul Gallant, Chris Krueger, Heidi Schneble, Roman Schweizer, Jaret Seiberg, and Rick Weissenstein a happy five-year anniversary of being part of the Cowen family!

What is your favorite WRG report from the last five years?

  • Paul Gallant: “The Next Two Years For Big Tech In The U.S. And Europe” (December 10, 2020).  It’s a deep dive on how Washington and Brussels realized they had whiffed on tech policy and will now pursue a more aggressive Plan B.
  • Chris Krueger: “I Wanna Be Sedated: Probability Increase to 90% for Clinton” (November 7, 2016). Three months into our tenure at Cowen, this was easily the most painful note. It was also probably one of the better (albeit painful) learning experiences in my career. After that 2016 election call, it was clear that scenario analysis was a better way to tackle events from a policy standpoint, which we did with “The Hunt for Dread October: Senate Deep Dive & 2021 Policy Impacts” (October 1, 2020). Our team approach to the 2020 election tried to take that into account.
  • Jaret Seiberg: “Cannabis Policy: Searching for 10 GOP Senators to Back Legalization” (March 10, 2021). I published a note this spring that looked at how each Republican senator viewed cannabis. The goal was to show how difficult it was to find 10 GOP senators willing to back cannabis legalization, even though the market seemed at the time to think legalization was not just inevitable but forthcoming.
  • Roman Schweizer: “The U.S. and China in the Ring of Fire” (July 17, 2020). Last year’s Ahead of the Curve® Series report on China was an opportunity to take a holistic policy/equity view on the devolving U.S.-China relationship. It gave me the chance to work across the research group and really appreciate the strengths and expertise on our team.
  • Heidi Schneble: “Shelter from the Storm: Trump Presidency in Historical Context” (August 16, 2017).

What was the most surprising non-Trump non-Covid development from the last five years?

  • Gallant: The way Washington has turned on its American champion companies ― Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. It’s been a 180 by both parties and it’s not ending soon.
  • Eric Assaraf: The pace at which new states have embraced adult-use cannabis legalization has been pretty remarkable.
  • Seiberg: The idea of turning post offices into consumer banking hubs has gone from a fringe issue to a Democratic civil rights demand. Given how often I get my neighbor’s mail, I find it surprising how much trust Capitol Hill has in the ability of the U.S. Postal Service to do this and how willing Democrats are to ignore the small banks and credit unions that want to block this idea.
  • Schweizer: The plight of Boeing. The company is facing critical challenges in its commercial, defense, and space businesses all at one time. Hopefully it will be a case study on corporate reinvention/renewal but it’s still an evolving story.

What has your experience of Cowen’s culture been like? Are there any particular examples of Cowen’s culture that you’d like to share?

  • Krueger: Trying not to sound like a Kool Aid drinker, but Cowen is easily the best place I have ever worked, which admittedly maybe isn’t the highest bar since I was subpoenaed in a federal grand jury investigation into corruption of the congressman I worked for and who ended up going to prison. BUT, Cowen is a special place at a special time – it’s unique to be able to work with people who are also your friends.
  • Assaraf: WRG has had numerous parent companies, but the best fit and culture for us has been Cowen by far. At Cowen, the research product is truly valued and a key aspect of the overall business.
  • Seiberg: Cowen prioritizes research and encourages collaboration in ways that I just have not seen in my career. I think that was evident during the COVID-19 crisis when policy and fundamental analysts were always working together to provide a comprehensive view.
  • Rick Weissenstein: It is the most collaborative culture I have ever experienced. It starts from the top down and Cowen leadership leads by example. They are amazingly hands on. When the Trump Administration started proposing drug pricing changes, our CEO Jeff Solomon was instrumental in getting several WRG analysts engaged with lawmakers on the issues. 
  • Schneble: When I think about Cowen’s culture the first thing that comes to mind is the focus on the employee. It is a welcoming and opening culture. I think that culture is what helped fueled the impressive results during the pandemic. One example that immediately comes to mind was leadership’s efforts to recognize employees even in small ways during the pandemic such as the snack boxes – I thought that was a great idea.

What do you think your next five years at Cowen will look like?

  • Gallant: As people’s work and personal lives continue moving online, government scrutiny of the tech sector will probably follow. That should keep us busy.
  • Assaraf: I’m hopeful the next five years will be as successful as my first five and that together we can take Cowen to new heights.
  • Seiberg: Given how important the government has become to the economy, I think the next five years are going to require just as much collaboration and work as the last five years. As we have seen over the decades, the government rarely ends programs that it has started.
  • Schweizer: The WRG team is in a unique position to help clients anticipate and prepare for the changes in Washington in the coming ’22 and ’24 election cycles. It’s going to be a volatile period, hopefully just from a policy perspective. In my area, the geopolitical competition with China is going to be a long-term challenge that will impact diplomacy, defense, trade, and technology.

What’s your favorite concert?

  • Gallant: Don’t make me choose between the pit at Springsteen in Nationals Park in 2016 and front row for Springsteen on Broadway. 
  • Krueger: To listen to: Grateful Dead from the spring 1977 tour. To watch: The Last Waltz, a 1976 concert by The Band. In person: The Allmans at the Beacon.
  • Assaraf: O.A.R. ― I’ve been to over a dozen shows from when they started as a garage band to a sell-out crowd at MSG.
  • Weissenstein: Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphy’s in Philly.
  • Schneble: Dolly Parton’s Pure and Simple Tour. Dolly is a national treasure!

What’s your favorite breakfast?

  • Gallant: The “Big Three Breakfast” at IHOP (pancakes, bacon, and eggs) with my son Ryan ― a Saturday morning tradition.
  • Krueger: Pimento cheese omelet at The Inn at Little Washington.
  • Seiberg: Nothing beats french toast with bananas. And coffee. There must always be coffee.
  • Weissenstein: A good breakfast sammie.
  • Schneble: Blueberry pancakes!

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

  • Gallant: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  Grotto’s Pizza, Dolles Taffy, etc.  Also, Fun Land isn’t just for kids. 
  • Assaraf: My favorite vacation is visiting a country I haven’t been to before.
  • Schweizer: Annual end-of-summer trip to Vermont.
  • Weissenstein: Chicago, the greatest city on earth!

What’s your biggest pandemic lesson?

  • Krueger: Be grateful…and do not give your kids chocolate after 7pm.
  • Seiberg: We took for granted in-person interactions before the pandemic. Zoom was incredibly valuable, but it is not the same. There is simply no way to replace what you can learn in those informal moments with clients, colleagues, and policymakers.
  • Schweizer: Everything is fragile. Don’t wait to do important things. Wash your hands.
  • Weissenstein: Never take the gym for granted.
  • Schneble: Despite the struggles and obstacles of the pandemic, it affirmed the good things in my life ― family, friends, colleagues. Even if distant, a phone call or a handwritten note can keep you connected.
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