Thierry Valat De Cordova is the general counsel, chief compliance officer, and anti-money laundering (AML) compliance officer at Dominion Capital and its affiliate, RD Advisors. He is the general counsel of the US Autism Association, a managing director at a broker-dealer, a book translator, and a divorce attorney consultant. He is a student of ten different languages, including Arabic, Mandarin, Italian, Japanese, and French. He is a marathon runner, a swimmer, a mountain climber, a triathlete in training, and a soon-to-be scuba diver. On top of it all, Valat De Cordova is a passionate devotee of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.
But it is because of that final component, the GC emphasizes, that he is able to manage all the rest. “Yoga and meditation, they’re like a companion to exercise and activity,” Valat De Cordova explains. “Yoga helps your body recover—all those long, smooth stretches—while mindfulness and meditation clear and strengthen the mind.”
Valat De Cordova “accidentally” fell into mindfulness and meditation about ten years ago, when he was struggling to balance family time with a high-pressure career in the financial services industry.
“I was with my wife and kid in Boston, and I found a basic eight-week mindfulness course. It attracted me because it was very scientific, very evidence based, with no religious content,” recalls the Harvard Law alumnus. “I remember thinking, at worst, nothing happens. But the best-case scenario is that I’m able to reduce my stress. From day one, everything just clicked.”
Almost immediately, Valat De Cordova began noticing small changes in his mind-set and behaviors. The people around him noticed how relaxed he was becoming, how he was “remembering how to laugh.”
“It’s not that I didn’t know how to laugh before,” he says. “But I was typically laughing at things in a mean or embarrassed way—laughing at someone, not with someone—not because something was inherently funny. Six months into my mindfulness and meditation practice, I remember just cracking up one day in a difficult meeting at work, looking at the absurdity of the situation we found ourselves in—and everyone else followed suit. It broke the tension, and the problem essentially solved itself.”
Laughter isn’t the only change that Valat De Cordova has seen in recent years. He has also given up coffee and alcohol, embraced Buddhism, conquered his fear of flying and taken dozens of trips around the world, experienced a divorce, transitioned between jobs, and begun radically expanding his perspective on what is possible. “I think that’s one thing meditation does; it helps you deal with change,” he reflects. “It gives you the perspective to be able to evaluate things in a balanced way instead of rejecting them out of hand.
“Instead of immediately saying things like ‘No, I can’t run a marathon; I’ve never run except on a treadmill before,’ it’s about asking yourself the simple question, ‘Why not?’” he continues.
These days, Valat De Cordova continues to meditate daily. He used to meditate while commuting to and from work at Dominion Capital, but nowadays, he meditates at home immediately before and after work hours, trying to keep a strict work schedule.
An investment advisory firm led by two brothers, Dominion Capital is known for investing across a variety of assets, from real estate and blockchain to capital markets, structured products, and venture capital. And according to Valat De Cordova, Dominion also fosters a company culture that perfectly aligns with his own dedication to mindfulness.
“I’m a small part of the world, and of the business, but I try to do everything I can to move the needle in the right direction.”
“The owners are very balanced in the way they think about things. They’re not subscribers of the mind-set typical of Wall Street, the ‘Let’s make money at all costs’ gung-ho attitude,” he explains. “At Dominion, we still want returns, but we take a step back, breathe, and calmly figure out what level of risk is right under the circumstances. There is a great sense of calm and perspective here, despite the fact that the company has been extremely successful and engages in high-pressure trades daily—and is still in business during the COVID-19 pandemic, while many of its competitors in the real estate business have stopped making loans altogether.”
In fact, since joining Dominion Capital in 2018 as the company’s first-ever general counsel and chief compliance officer, Valat De Cordova has built both the legal and compliance functions from scratch, helping grow the company into a formidable competitor in the fintech and real estate lending market.
But to Valat De Cordova, his work at Dominion Capital and RD Advisors is much less about distinguishing himself as an expert legal counsel and much more about making a difference in the world, however small.
“Building an entire department, that creates jobs. Restructuring a company well in bankruptcy, that saves jobs. Drafting and strengthening all the policies and procedures the company needs, that helps Dominion act responsibly in the industry,” he emphasizes. “Showing others how to be calm while being fast, sharp, and focused—that helps Dominion and RD navigate through the most difficult times, and we find ourselves still floating while everyone else is sinking. And that helps preserve our capital and the jobs of the people around me.
“I’m a small part of the world and of the business, but I try to do everything I can to move the needle just a little bit closer to the right direction.”
One Good Tree Makes the World a Better Place
Over the years, mindfulness has illuminated every aspect of Thierry Valat De Cordova’s life. It has taught him to listen to and accept the limits of his body. It has helped him embrace gratitude, equanimity, and deep listening. It has helped him see that everything is connected, even if it appears to be random. And Valat De Cordova is still trying to dig deeper, learn more, and be better.
“There is a Buddhist philosophy centered on this idea of ‘right living,’” he says. “It’s the idea that you help the world most, and do the most good, by being your best. Not anyone else’s best, your best. A tree is a small piece of the world, but it makes the world better just by being a good and beautiful tree.”