Spotlight: David Kotok
When David Kotok moved Cumberland Advisors, the financial services company he co-founded, from his native New Jersey to Sarasota in 2009, one of the challenges he faced was developing a pipeline of prospective financial services employees with specific skill sets.
He was pleased that the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM) had a reputation for having a strong business program, yet Kotok was seeking professionals who were proficient using Bloomberg Terminals. He recognized that most people just starting out in the financial services business have limited opportunities to become skilled with Bloomberg’s comprehensive computer system that provides investors with access to real-time financial data, news feeds and messages, and facilitates the placement of financial transactions. He made a decision to provide the resources for USFSM to convert an existing classroom into a Bloomberg Lab with 12 terminals.
"If there is one discipline that is more important than others to me, it is education, learning, research, critical thinking, and not blind acceptance.”
“When we hired our first USFSM grad to work for us, he didn’t know what a Bloomberg Terminal was,” said Kotok. “So we had to teach and train him for a year, and that is part of what led me to contribute to creating the Bloomberg Lab at USFSM. We now have five USFSM employees at Cumberland, as well as interns, and every one of them is a whiz on the Bloomberg Terminals.” About 200 students have now earned Bloomberg Market Concepts certification since the terminals were installed in 2017.
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“Providing USFSM students with access to the Bloomberg Terminals enables them to do in-depth, serious research in economics, finance and markets,” said Kotok. “And, it helps them launch careers with exceptional skill levels and earn significantly more on entry into the workforce than their peers who don’t have these skills.”
Kotok developed strong business skills working in his family’s grocery store in New Jersey as a young person, finished in the top 10 of his high school class, and went on to earn three degrees from the University of Pennsylvania: a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School, an M.S. in organizational dynamics and an M.A. in philosophy. He has always been passionate about education and giving back to the community.
“My parents and grandparents stressed the importance of education and modeled giving back to the community; it has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember,” he said. “My parents were active in communal affairs of all types; they supported the hospital, Rotary, services clubs and education. My grandparents gave back to the community to try to make the world a little better place, too. The Bloomberg Lab was an opportunity for me to continue this legacy at USFSM.”
In addition to supporting USFSM financially, Kotok also has played a key role in bringing special community events to campus in partnership with the Global Interdependence Center (GIC), a nonprofit organization for which he serves as a board member. GIC “seeks to stimulate thoughtful, global dialogue on a wide range of issues that affect the international community.”
During the past two years, USFSM has hosted daylong seminars on Cuba and the Caribbean, adapting to climate change and several financial literacy workshops with world-class experts he knows personally. Kotok was also the keynote speaker at USFSM’s September 11th remembrance event this past year, sharing his reflections on his time in the service, and what it was like to be in the World Trade Center when the first plane struck and he was forced to escape before the building collapsed.
“If there is one discipline that is more important than others to me, it is education, learning, research, critical thinking, and not blind acceptance,” Kotok said. “A university can facilitate dialog of diverse viewpoints in a civil setting where people of good will discuss and debate topics based on research and consideration of diverse views. It doesn’t have to be incendiary. We have enjoyed sponsoring such discussions at USFSM.”
“We really appreciate the partnership we have with David Kotok and the wonderful support he has provided for USFSM students,” said Regional Chancellor Karen A. Holbrook, PhD. “It has been a pleasure working with David on special events and projects that benefit our community, and we welcome the opportunity to continue to develop programs that engage and enlighten our students and members of our community.”
Kotok also has enjoyed working with community members to create a new scholarship program with the Visible Men Academy, an all-boys, Title 1 K-5 public charter school in Bradenton, where 99-percent of the students are living at or below the poverty line.
“We launched a scholarship program so that when a young person makes it through high school on merit, the carrot is a college degree which was once unthinkable,” said Kotok. “I recently had a conversation with the mother of a third-grader and she started to cry. She said that never in her wildest dreams could she see a pathway for her boy to go to college, so for me, this is very important. It is multidimensional and is going to save a young person who doesn’t even know what is ahead in their future. Ten years from now, that young person is going to have the opportunity to go to college… I don’t know about others, but for me that’s a big deal.”
And who knows? Maybe that third-grader will use the scholarship someday at USFSM, take advantage of the David Kotok/Cumberland Advisors Bloomberg Terminals and become the next great community leader with a passion for paying it forward.