Aaron learned how to manage risk under fire – on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). His early lessons in this raw form of capitalism came before computer systems replaced most of the shouting, gesturing traders who worked on the floor of the Exchange.
“It was just organized chaos. You’d have three phones to your ear and people yelling at you all the time. It was sink or swim,” says Rasmussen, a South Dakota native who is back in his home state working as an associate with McGowan Capital Group.
“Working at the NYMEX was like working at the New York Stock Exchange,” he says, “except the risks were higher because of the volatile nature of dealing in commodities.” He spent 12 years trading and investing in natural gas and crude oil futures before joining McGowan Capital Group in August 2014. He also traded in areas such as currencies.
Aaron began his professional career in 2003 after earning an MBA at the prestigious Brandeis University International Business School in Massachusetts. He started as a phone clerk for Energex Ltd, where he worked for about a year. In 2004, at age 27, he acquired part of the business that employed him. As President of Energex Futures, he engineered a dramatic, $1.25 million turnaround during the company’s first year of operation.
In 2007, he went to work for ICAP as a derivatives broker, and in 2008 he formed his second company, Sage Commodities, a brokerage that specializes in natural gas derivatives. He still owns Sage and remotely oversees the company’s financials. However, a business partner in Hoboken, NJ oversees day-to-day operations of Sage.
“My day-to-day focus is McGowan Capital. They’ve got plenty of work for me to do,” says Rasmussen, a Certified Alternative Investment Analyst and self-described “financial geek.”
Gene McGowan Sr., founder and Chief Executive Officer at McGowan Capital, is impressed by how Rasmussen worked his way through San Diego State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, and continued working odd jobs to get through graduate school. “He got into a very tough industry at a low level, basically making coffee, and worked himself up to running his own business. His entrepreneurial history was exciting to us,” McGowan says.
McGowan also appreciates that Rasmussen, at age 38, is a seasoned decision maker who got good results working in high-risk businesses. “How do you learn to do that? The best way is to have done it and be successful at it,” McGowan says.
In addition to learning how to work comfortably under high-risk conditions, Rasmussen’s time in New York exposed him to other economic challenges, such as the national recession of 2007-2009. Fortunately, his industry niche held up during the downturn. Rasmussen says, “We actually did pretty well through it.”
At about the same time, Rasmussen was feeling the urge to return to South Dakota. He was born and raised in Brookings, and he went to middle and high school in Sioux Falls. He and a former girlfriend from Sioux Falls – Raena, who is now his wife – began corresponding while he was in New York. They dated long distance for a few years and got married in 2012. His wife runs the Balleraena Dance Studio in Sioux Falls.
After he graduated from Lincoln High School in 1995, Rasmussen attended the University of Nevada in Reno for a year before moving to San Diego. His family had moved away from Sioux Falls, so he hadn’t returned until he started seeing Raena. “I was really impressed with Sioux Falls, in general, and what it had become,” he says.
Rasmussen started talking to Gene McGowan at the suggestion of Raena. Rasmussen liked the private equity and investment firm’s strategy and people, and company leaders liked him. Rasmussen started working for McGowan Capital a couple of months later. “It’s been great. I absolutely love it,” he says.
In addition to Gene McGowan, investment executives at McGowan Capital include President Dan Newell and Vice President Larry Thornton. Rasmussen hopes to learn from the company’s leaders.
“We invest in people, not the idea. We like to align ourselves with good managers. They are the people who are going to take it to the next level,” McGowan says.
Aaron has fit back into the community away from work, as well. He’s the treasurer of the State Theatre Board. He also serves on the Advisory Board of The Bakery, an entrepreneurial and creative group in Sioux Falls.
In addition to spending time with his family, Aaron enjoys playing golf. He and his wife have two daughters and live in the small town of Renner – a sharp contrast from the hectic life he left in New York. “I’ve gone full circle,” he says. “I love the move.”