In the early 1990s, when James Perez-Foster, managing partner at Bainbridge Advisors in Boulder, Colorado, was working in asset management at Merrill Lynch in New York, he became aware of the enormous potential of the Hispanic market in the greater New York City area.
“I was not only captivated by the economic viability of both Hispanic and women-owned businesses and the sophisticated capital needs they had, but also by how little emphasis was being placed by financial firms to understand those markets, the businesses and their owners,” he says. “I knew very early on that the financial services industry was making a terrible mistake by either ignoring the Hispanic community or, for those firms that were approaching it, viewing it as a monolithic block.”
As it were, Perez-Foster didn’t get a whole lot of encouragement from management to cultivate a Hispanic clientele, but he pushed ahead, and within a few years, after moving to (at the time) Smith Barney, he was managing $100 million in investment assets for both Hispanic and women-owned businesses that spanned the gamut from mom-and-pop stores to television and movie companies, and their owners.
“Basically, the owners of all these businesses had the same goal: to retire with dignity,” he says. “Some of them were sitting on millions of dollars and couldn’t believe that someone from a Wall Street firm wanted to deal with them.”
His efforts at working with the finances of these businesses and those of their owners inspired Perez-Foster to create a full-service bank dedicated wholly to the Hispanic community. He left New York City shortly after 9/11 to settle in Denver, and some years thereafter, set up Solera National Bank, where he remains the chairman emeritus. Solera is dedicated to providing financial services to Colorado’s growing population of Hispanic and minority-owned businesses.
While the financial advisory business has made great strides in both its understanding of and approach to the Hispanic population, Perez-Foster nevertheless believes that advisors, both RIAs and others, should pay greater attention to the financial needs of both Hispanic and minority-owned small businesses. “RIA’s are sitting on the precipice of an enormous wave of minority-owned, small to mid-sized businesses with upwards of $75 billion in annual capital demands to fuel and scale business growth, and the U.S. Hispanic and women-owned small businesses are the fastest growing small business segments in the U.S. economy,” he says.