St. Charles is roughly 40 miles west of Chicago and is on the western fringe of the metroplex known as Chicagoland. When Harley Tobon’s Mexican-born parents decided to move out of the Windy City and find a place to raise their two sons, St. Charles was the perfect choice.
“You’re on the cusp of the cornfields of the Midwest, while having an easy trip into metropolitan Chicago,” Tobon said of his hometown. “St. Charles is a great place to grow up. There’s a mix of affluent people along with a growing number of blue-collar workers. It’s a great place to see the world as it is.”
Tobon, 23, still makes his home in St. Charles, where he serves as an advisor with Facet Wealth, which is based in Baltimore but serves clients around the nation. He is working toward his Certified Financial Planner designation and was chosen to receive a diversity scholarship from the Financial Planning Association. He also is a member of the Association of Latino Professionals for America, an organization aimed at fostering success within the Latinx community.
He began his financial services career while he was a student studying personal finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “I became licensed in property/casualty, life and health insurance at age 19. My first position in the industry was with a property/casualty insurance agency. I was brought in as a marketing coordinator, specializing in working with small-business clients.”
But he was interested in financial matters long before he became a licensed agent.
“Even when I was a child, I would encourage others to save money, to not spend it all,” he laughed. “Whenever I was given a cash gift, I would put it aside instead of rushing out to spend it.”
He credits his father for being one of his earliest financial mentors.
“Starting when I was a young age, my dad took it upon himself to instill in me the money management lessons that he had learned through trial and error. He wasn’t given the opportunity to have an in-depth understanding of finance aside from the philosophy of ‘you make what you use, you use what you make until you can’t use it anymore.’”
While Tobon’s father taught him about managing money, his mother taught him people skills.
“My mother has a lot of compassion,” he said. “And she taught me that being a good person takes you a long way. So between my father teaching me to be money-minded and my mother teaching me to be people-oriented, it was a great marriage of skills for me, and my interest in this business started from there.”
“It Was Just Being Where People Work”
As he began in the business, he quickly learned to work with centers of influence and participate in community events as ways of prospecting with Latino clients in his hometown.
“I did a lot of community-driven marketing — working with areas of influence, the local Chamber of Commerce, we did some community college events. When it came to prospecting
specifically in the Latino community, it was just being where people work. So I built a relationship with the owner of a Spanish grocery store, with the owners of some convenience stores in the area. It wasn’t necessarily an opportunity to do business development, it was to give the members of my community an individual they knew that they could communicate with, that they could ask questions pertinent to their concerns. I found many of them were relieved that there is someone out there who looks like them, who sounds like them.”
Tobon’s involvement with FPA led to his current job, at a firm whose founder has an ambitious goal — to put a Certified Financial Planner in front of every household in the nation. Brent Weiss is the chief evangelist and founding member of Facet Wealth. Tobon said he heard Weiss speak at an FPA event, where he discussed his dream of making comprehensive, financial planning accessible to everyone.
“I wanted to be a part of having that kind of comprehensive sound planning advice given to millions of households across the country,” Tobon said. “I knew how much of a benefit that could be, just reflecting on my own family and knowing that if my parents had been given the opportunity to speak with a professional financial advisor, how that could have springboarded our family into who knows where. When I thought of other households across the country and their needs, I knew this was an organization I wanted to learn more about and ultimately be a part of.”
Facet Wealth’s business model is assigning each client one CFP who works with them consistently and virtually, getting a deep understanding of their needs and goals and creating an individually tailored financial plan. The firm doesn’t charge clients based on assets under management but charges fees based on the services clients use and has subscription-based service models available. Clients have the ability to work with their financial advisor from anywhere and have access to advisors even after business hours.
“Our mission is that we aim to serve millions of households,” Tobon said. “Facet Wealth is very well positioned to be an opportunity for individuals to have a Certified Financial Planner available to them. In my position, I work with individuals who are interested in receiving comprehensive planning, begin the conversation and understand what their needs are in personal finance, what their concerns are. Something that I do personally is understand what they perceive planning to be and then have an open discussion about what that could look like. And what that looks like is different to different people.”
Andy Barton is head of partnerships with Facet Wealth and hired Tobon to work for the firm. He described Tobon as “passionate about helping anyone get the financial planning they need.”
Tobon especially wants to reach out to mass affluent consumers, Barton said.
“He works hard to connect with people on a personal level, and that’s what he does well,” Barton said. “He also is able to serve people bilingually. He can provide advice and relate it back to what they are looking for.”
‘People Prefer To Talk About Anything Else’
Tobon said he learned that finances can be a sensitive subject for clients to discuss.
“People prefer to talk about anything else instead of their money,” he said. “So, starting from my insurance background, the conversations I have are less trajectory oriented and more about let’s protect what you have. Protection is easily understood by just about anyone.”
Tobon said the protection conversation “gave me a lot of lessons in how individuals respect what they have. Especially in the Latino community, where you only have what you make and you never want to let that get out of your control.”
In advising his clients, Tobon said, he found that most of their financial goals can be placed into three categories.
“There are the short-term or medium-term goals, such as buying a vehicle, buying a home or maybe even buying a second home. Then there are more long-term goals, such as saving for retirement or saving up to begin the next chapter in their lives. Third, there are miscellaneous goals. These are when folks are pursuing their interests, maybe they want to create a business or they have family-oriented financial goals, maybe they want to perform some philanthropy.”
‘The Concept Of Money And The Idea Of Respect’
Tobon said that advisors who want to serve Latino clients “must understand first and foremost that if the Latino individual has an opportunity to speak with a financial professional, it may well be the first time anyone in their family or their immediate circle has met with a professional advisor.”
Advisors also need to understand some of the cultural distinctions in the Latino community, he added, especially the practice of families providing financial assistance to those outside their immediate household. In addition, he said, Latino clients have a strong desire to help others within their community.
Don’t let the language barrier keep you from serving Latino families and individuals, Tobon advised. “The concept of money and the idea of respect transcend language,” he said.
Outside of work, Tobon enjoys life on his family’s five-acre property, where he keeps chickens and has a large vegetable garden. He also enjoys outdoor activities such as fishing. One of his passions is volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which helps fulfill the wishes of children who are critically ill.
How can the industry bring more Latinos into the financial services business? Tobon had some thoughts.
“There’s the buzzword about creating the right cultural fit. But first, you have to recognize the lack of representation. When individuals look for a job in personal finance, they want to click on the company’s website and look at the team and see who they are. Employers who are interested in bringing in Latino advisors can look at what initiatives and incentives they can offer to bring those advisors into the workforce.”
Tobon said he wants to serve households and individuals of all ethnic backgrounds, not just Latinos.
“I hope to be a support for others who are traditionally underrepresented in personal finance, whether that be the Latino community, the Asian community, African American, women and any other minorities out there. I believe in more representation in the industry, because people are drawn to working with folks who look like you and sound like you. In America, by and large, folks are lacking professional financial planning. In my short career thus far, I’ve seen what professional planning can do for families and individuals, and I’m excited to be part of that.”