A week after he returned from a nine-month combat mission as a company commander in Afghanistan, with constant enemy threat, firefights and NATO gunship strikes fresh in mind, Simon Cox settled into his new job at the Royal Bank of Canada as a financial planner.
“It was very surreal to sit back and look around my office,” Cox recalls.
He remembers that day not only for its stark contrast but also because it was his 30th birthday. Up until then, his life was the military. He had already served in two international operations (the first was Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he led a platoon in support of peace operations).
In some ways, Cox’s life trajectory was set while growing up. His father was in the military and moved the family from one army base to another across the country every couple years.
Cox joined the cadets at age 12. Then after high school, he moved to Calgary to study military and Canadian history at the University of Calgary while training as an infantry officer. His goal, at the time, was to lead a platoon in an international operation, which he realized in Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after finishing his degree.
Superior performance, bravery, leadership and book smarts account for Cox’s rise through the ranks. He has been richly decorated with military distinctions and, last year, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian Army Primary Reserves.
Military careers can be short and civilian life long, so Cox continued his studies while he was working at the Royal Bank. He earned a Master of Business Administration, which became his stepping-stone to a more fulfilling civilian career—and a good way to stay sane.
Simon Cox is one of the Fluor/Oilweek 2018 Rising Stars. To read all of their stories, click here.
“I was never clinically diagnosed with PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder], but anyone that goes through a stressful situation will need time to unwind. Maybe that’s part of how I dealt with it. I just always keep really busy,” he says.
Cox entered the oil and gas sector in a finance role. After a three-year stint with Wood Mackenzie in Houston as a market analyst, he returned to Calgary to start a small acquisition and divestiture firm with a colleague.
Helping clients evaluate their operations, find acquisitions targets and raise money eventually gave Cox the appetite to put some skin in the game.
“We found an asset that we liked and some people we really like to work with, and started a junior oil and gas company,” he says.
Today, even as Cox helps build Certus Oil and Gas, he continues to serve his regiment and community. That takes up as much as 30 hours each week.
He is a director on the Calgary Highlanders Regimental Funds Foundation, which is a private fund that supports the history and the traditions of the Highlanders Regiment, and provides financial aid to injured soldiers who need supplemental income for their family. Part of the Cox’s oversight extends to the Military Museum in Calgary and the Regimental Association, which connects current and former soldiers.
With a wife and young daughter in his life now and his assignment as Lieutenant-Colonel coming to completion this December, Cox is at a crossroads.
“I’ll need to decide whether to stay or get out of the army,” he says. “I think it’s probably time I give the army up. I’ve been in it for a long time and it’s time to focus on my business and family.”
Education: MBA (Finance), University of Calgary, 2012
Favourite charities: The Calgary Highlanders Regimental Funds Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, Star Skaters
First job: Produce Clerk, Calgary CO-OP
If not for your career, what would you be doing: Spending as much time as possible with my daughter, veterans outreach/support and writing.
Best advice received: Nothing in life is free, including happiness. It is earned through hard work, passion, dedication and ownership of your success.
Favourite pastime: Playing hockey
Favourite book: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Other interests/passions: Reading, playing hockey and training for triathlons