Jose Campos, AIF®, EA, CFP®, CIMA®, managing partner of Innovative Investment Partners in Burlingame, California, is not your typical advisor. According to the CFP Board, less than 3 percent of CFP® practitioners are Hispanic, and less than 6 percent are under 30 years old. Jose is both. In fact, he acquired all of his licenses and professional designations and purchased the firm he now manages at a younger age than most advisors.
In our recent discussion, Jose credited his motivation, exceptional mentors, and a little bit of luck for the success he’s found as a young minority advisor and thriving business owner.
Q: How did you get your start in financial services?
A: When I was in college, I did an internship with a firm that was a Super OSJ, which is kind of a mini broker/dealer within a broker/dealer. I worked in an administrative and service-type role. But, I was surrounded by financial advisors and quickly realized that was the path I wanted to take.
I eventually moved into business development where I met with advisors at other firms and recruited them to join Cambridge Investment Research and our Super OSJ (Gateway). That’s when I met my previous employer, Kathie. I bonded with her because she had a tax background (I was an accounting major) that I thought was unique to the industry. The funny thing is, she ended up recruiting me to join her instead of me recruiting her!
Since I already had my licenses, I started working with Kathie as a junior advisor/tax advisor. We brought in a lot of new fee-based assets in my first year at Commonwealth.
Q: Where did most of your new business come from?
A: A lot of firms rely on referrals, but we never brought in new business that way. Since the firm I joined also had a tax business, we had relationships with people whose money we weren’t yet managing. They already relied on us and trusted us with their tax returns, so it was a natural progression for me to handle their investments as well.
Q: That’s a rare combination in this industry, isn’t it? Many advisors work with CPAs as strategic partners to bring in new business.
A: I guess we are our own strategic partner, then! I think that’s where things are headed in the industry. It can become more about holistic financial planning—and that includes taxes—than just investment management. For our firm, I want us to be a one-stop shop, so we’re ready for the next evolution of the industry.
Q: How did you become managing partner and sole owner of the firm?
A: We grew quickly with all of the new business we were acquiring, so Kathie and I began discussing an earnout agreement. She retired, and I purchased the practice from her. We were facing a down market when Covid-19 arrived, among many other challenges. Surprisingly, I experienced significant growth during that time. Because I’d built a lot of confidence with my tax clients, I felt like they trusted my knowledge and expertise.
Q: How were you able to grow your business so quickly without bringing on additional staff?
A: I focused on streamlining our operations and running the firm more efficiently. I also dropped most of my commission business since I didn’t have a working relationship with those clients. If I am not talking to my clients regularly, I’m not giving them the service they deserve.
I now have my clients down to a manageable number and prefer to be hands-on. I find my purpose in helping them—that’s what makes me look forward to getting up in the morning.
Q: As a Hispanic American, what hurdles did you face to get where you are today?
A: My family emigrated from El Salvador to the United States when I was 6 years old. I was part of the generation of Dreamers, though I had Temporary Protected Status when I arrived. Because of this, I wasn’t eligible for financial aid, so I almost didn’t go to college. If I hadn’t gone, and hadn’t done my internship, I may have never known about the financial services industry.
Q: Do you face any barriers now because of your ethnicity?
A: Here in the Bay area, this isn’t much of a factor because it’s such a diverse community. In fact, most of my clients are diverse Americans. It’s probably different in other parts of the country, but here, I don’t think it matters as much.
Q: Who is your typical client?
A: A lot of my clients are engineers in Silicon Valley. They’re the ones who have stock options, and that’s my specialty. They’ve built up a significant amount of value and want to diversify their portfolio, so that’s how we start the conversation. And, of course, we handled taxes for many of them first. We probably convert 5–10 tax clients each year.
Q: What has your experience been like working with Commonwealth?
A: We joined Commonwealth primarily for its technology—I thought it was far superior to anything else out there. And now, I lean on them a lot for their planning expertise. At my previous workplaces, it was up to me to find the best product for an annuity or long-term care plan, for example.
With Commonwealth, they’ve already done the due diligence in those areas, so I can lean on them a little more. Or, if I have a client that has an unusual case, I can use them as a resource. They’ve been extremely helpful in that area.
As far as the people and the community, it’s so welcoming. I’ve never felt a sense of “I’m different” because I’m Hispanic. I stand out because of my age more than my ethnicity, but not in a bad way. Everyone I meet at conferences is impressed with how young I am and how far I’ve come.
Q: Hispanics make up less than 3 percent of CFP® practioners across the nation. Why do you think that is?
A: For many Hispanics, I think the issue is visibility. As I said, if I hadn’t interned at Cambridge, I probably wouldn’t have had access to this industry. So, making more Hispanics—more minorities in general—aware that this could be a career path for them would be a big step in the right direction. The CFP Board is taking measures to do just that.
The other concern is that, from my experience, a lot of Hispanics who do get into the business are recruited by larger firms to sell products. It’s less about becoming a wealth advisor and building relationships, so they end up getting burned out and leaving the industry altogether.
Q: Do you have any advice for other minorities looking to get into the business?
A: I have two pieces of advice: find a good mentor, and get your licenses and certifications as early as possible.
Someone I initially worked with asked me why I wanted to get my Series 7, thinking that I wouldn’t need it. But thankfully, I had a great mentor who looked out for my best interests, made me aware of the challenges I would face as a minority in the industry, and encouraged me to get those licenses and certifications. If it hadn’t been for him, I probably would not have stayed in this industry.