An Angel Among Us. The extraordinary financial leader enriching the lives of the unsung success stories—from victims of misguided justice to sports heroes to rising-star entrepreneurs.
In a bustling office in the heart of Chicago, far from the Wall Street spotlight, there lives an angel among us—Oliver Kupe, president and founder of wealth management firm Aurelian Capital Partners. This might seem a play on words befitting his well-known reputation for accessing angel investments, venture capital, and private equity for some of the most successful startups in recent history—among them Airbnb, Spotify, Coinbase, and DraftKings. However, for many, Oliver is an angel who reached like a beacon of light through the sea of financial advisory firms that dismissed them to provide the life-changing resources that wealth management provides. In doing so, he, along with partners Nicole Meihofer and Cameron Dickerson, have built a firm that is gradually eclipsing $100 million in assets under management in under 12 months—and he’s on a mission to help change the lives of some of the greatest, yet unsung, success stories of high-net-worth individuals.
From wrongfully convicted exonerees to professional athletes to rising-star entrepreneurs, Oliver works tirelessly to help provide the life his clients deserve. Founded in November 2020, Aurelian Capital provides boutique investment advisory and family office services with cutting-edge financial services that are creative, diverse, inclusive, and built to enhance their clients’ unique lifestyles. Prior to starting the firm, Oliver enjoyed a successful decade-long career as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch and as managing partner with Fort Point Capital Partners. But a chance encounter with a wrongly convicted exoneree shone a light on the greater purpose that Providence had in mind for him. Now, Oliver and his Aurelian Capital team focus specifically on people who have defied life’s greatest odds and claimed its greatest triumphs—75% of whom are black clientele. Just a year since opening their doors, the firm is managing the assets of over a dozen exonerees and a roster of pro athletes that reads like a Who’s Who of the NFL, with players from the Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Houston Texans, 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Denver Broncos.
As a full-scale family office, Aurelian Capital Partners specializes in four distinct areas: financial planning, investment management, private investments - with a focus on angel investments, venture capital, and private equity—and a service called “lifestyle management,” which caters to the unique lifestyle needs of exonerees and athletes. And as a former All Big Ten and American in soccer for Northwestern University, where he received his degree in economics before being drafted into the MLS by Real Salt Lake City, Oliver knows firsthand the unique financial needs of his athletic brethren. So, too, does Cameron, a former Northwestern football player who serves as business development manager and financial advisor for athletes and leads the firm’s initiative for NFL players.
While Oliver’s skill and ambition have garnered him awards such as Rising Leader from Northwestern University Black Alumni and the CDIS 2020 Congolese Rising Leader, his commitment to the betterment of all extends beyond his career. He serves on the boards of the 100 Black Men of Chicago, Northwestern University Black Alumni Association, and 548 Capital. Like Oliver’s clients, this might be the greatest success story never told—until now. We sat down with Oliver to hear more about Aurelian Capital and his commitment to helping his unique clients pursue their life’s passions.
Let’s start at the beginning. What led you to a career as a financial advisor?
It was my mother and father who inspired me. I grew up in Detroit, but I was born and raised in Luxembourg. My parents are Congolese, and I witnessed their endless personal and financial sacrifices to take us from the Congo to Europe, and, finally, to the U.S. to give me and my sisters a life of opportunities. I wanted to help individuals like them, who, in the traditional sense, might not have access to or knowledge of the life-changing resources that wealth management provides. This is my mission that has guided me through my entire career, and especially with my own firm now.
The inspiration for Aurelian Capital Partners came from a meeting with a wrongly convicted exoneree, is that right?
Yes, it did, and I’ll never forget that day. His name was Jonathan Barr. He and his brother, James Harden, were part of the Dixmoor Five, who were falsely convicted of rape and murder and spent 19 years in prison before being exonerated. I was just starting at Merrill Lynch, and I met a CPA who did prison ministry and he asked me to meet him. We met at a Starbucks and talked for six hours, and he trusted me with their settlement. This was where the idea for Aurelian Capital was born. These individuals often have little or misguided assistance when it comes to their wealth once exonerated, and I was determined to help them. We work directly with their attorneys at Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin (NSB), whose founders - Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, also founded the Innocence Project. We built a strong relationship with NSB and were privileged enough to become a preferred financial advisor for their exonerated clients. They started sending us more exonerees, and it snowballed from there.
How does your approach differ when working with exonerees?
On average, our group exonerees served 18 years before release and a combined 200+ years in prison. So when it comes to understanding money, wealth, finances, they’re starting at the very beginning of financial literacy and more importantly the outside world has drastically changed. We’re a big part of the process of helping them re-enter society and understanding what life means to them, who are the important people in their life, and what life goals they want to pursue with their newfound wealth and freedom. The first few years is just helping them get settled, feeling part of society again, and piecing every part of their financial life together, from their bank account, first house, first car, putting together a budget, and then financial planning, taxes, management, etc. Working with these individuals, building relationships with them, and seeing them flourish is so tremendously rewarding and fulfilling for us.
Will you share the success stories of a few of your exonerees?
There are so many, so it’s difficult to pick just a few. Jonathan Barr is now thriving with a beautiful family and a sound financial plan to carry him through his life. Jamal Trulove is another. He spent eight years in San Quentin after being wrongfully convicted of murder. He was released 2016, and I remember taking him for his first steak in Chicago. He’s a successful actor & entrepreneur now. Knowing that we were able to help him maneuver in business and facilitate his connections and that allowed him to star in an Oscar-nominated movie and in three upcoming films, and just seeing him shining in life, it’s an awesome feeling.
How do you serve your athlete clients and how is their situation different from others?
I love this space because I was an athlete. I’m passionate about not only protecting their hard earned wealth, but making it work for them throughout their lives. The earning timeline for athletes is relatively short, and they essentially retire twice—from their sport usually in their late 20s, early 30s, and then again in their 50s and 60s—and this is where post-career planning is very different. We help them manage their money to bridge that gap, maximizing every dollar they have now by providing investments that generate enough passive income and returns that can sustain them post playing career and well into retirement.
How does your ability to access venture capital, private equity, and angel investments benefit your clients?
Our access allows us to help our clients get into unique, high-quality deals, and this is an area that we’ve quickly become known for among our athletes. Unlike traditional advisors, we help them get into proven private placements and venture capital offerings that help create generational wealth. We’ve connected with Silicon based angel firms and secondary investment banks that source tremendous investment opportunities for our athletes and all qualified clients. We mitigate the risk for our clients by investing in companies that have proven revenue and exit strategies and are disruptors in their industry. We utilize direct placements and institutional funds to get our clients access to pre-IPO tech stocks and private market acquisitions that typically exit within 1-3 years.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
What I enjoy most is seeing our clients thrive and succeed in life. But what really drives me is seeing the excitement and pride of our exonerees when they’re flourishing. To be a witness to these moments is very emotional for me, and it’s by far the proudest I’ve ever felt about our work.
President & Founder — Aurélien Capital Partners