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We are thrilled to introduce SHIFT Talks: a series of unique stories from local entrepreneurs, each detailing how they've experienced shifts within their personal life, their company’s journey, their industry, and most importantly, our city. Their stories. Their SHIFT Talks.
John formed the Leibowitz-Magiros Group in 2006 with Jerry Leibowitz, Executive Director of Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley, with the vision of providing services specialized for business owners and executives with a core goal to imprint client values on their financial decisions in order to maximize purpose as well as profit. The success of the group’s mission has led John exceedingly close to the short-term goal of becoming the youngest Family Wealth Director firm-wide.
Additionally, John holds the position of Director of Finance for the popular local non-profit, Volunteering Untapped Baltimore. He also serves as a grant chair for the Sports Boosters of Maryland nonprofit.
Q. Clearly and concisely, what is it that you do?
A. I run awealth management group that focuses on executives and business owners. Over the last 10 years we have been connecting growing businesses with the resources they need to be successful.
For the past three years, I have been the Director of Finance for Volunteering Untapped, which is a charity that focuses on expanding volunteerism. The second Saturday of every month we get volunteers out in the community at different charities.
Q. Can you tell us about an important event in your life and how it impacted your path forward?
A. The single most significant moment in my life happened during middle school, somewhere between 7th or 8th grade. I was not treated well, and was even bullied by people I considered to be friends. I was going through a tough time with my parents’ divorce, and one-day I had endured some heavy bullying. After it was all said and done, I separated myself from everything and walked home alone the rest of the way. It was autumn and the leaves were covering the path ahead. I was getting so frustrated and was focused on all the feelings I had about being bullied and dealing with my parents, when everything started boiling over. I started crying uncontrollably. At that moment, about six feet ahead of me, a hawk flew over my shoulder and swooped down and snatched up a snake I was about to step on.
It completely took me by surprise and jolted me from the moment I was having. It taught me two really important things. For one – somewhere out there, someone or something was looking out for me. As low and as bad as I was feeling, it took me right out of all the negativity. The experience taught me a lot about how to deal with those types of emotions. And two, it also taught me it’s okay to feel down and it’s okay to be in the moment sometimes. But, we have to remind ourselves life is going to continue to happen and move forward. If we don’t pick our heads up during trying times or attempt to get back on track, then we’re going to miss something. Something important.
Q. What are some of your life’s most unforgettable experiences thus far?
A. One of the most exciting things I’ve ever done was the running of the bulls in Pamplona. It was exhilarating. It was scary. It was completely unlike anything I thought it would be.
Q. Running with the bulls is pretty crazy! What other wild ideas are on your bucket list?
A. Going to outer space. I am an outer space nerd and love the idea of just going somewhere completely new and experiencing something I’ve only read about or seen in movies.
Another bucket list item is to have a cigar with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Maybe a Padrón Anniversary Series – I think that’s what he is smoking these days – I am definitely fine with that. I grew up with Arnold’s movies. When I got older, I watchedthe documentary, Pumping Iron, and was inspired by him. He is such a motivational person.
On top of everything, he called his entire life. In his documentary, he was talking about what he wants to do after weightlifting, and he said, “I want to get into movies and then I want to get into politics.” For him to go through life and accomplish all the things he said he wants to accomplish. I admire his commitment, and he’s absolutely an entertaining person. I think we’d have a lot to talk about.
Q. How is your work in wealth management and the non-profit sector helping to shift the purpose of business?
A. On the for-profit side, we are shifting the purpose of business by focusing on a segment of the population I’ve seen to be completely misunderstood and wildly underserved: the business owner or executive that’s under 40 years old. Technology has created a platform for younger people to build very, very successful businesses. Often, these business leaders want to work with somebody who sees the world through their lens.
They don’t look at the investment landscape the way other people do; like someone who is significantly older. They want to communicate differently. They’re skeptical and look at traditional fees differently. They don’t look at the market the same way everyone else does. Additionally, there are a lot of different challenges they’re facing that others are not; whether it is the longevity of their business or the longevity of their life.
Another way we are making shifts is by putting a client’s business in front of the stock market. I think as financial planners, we’re doing a huge disservice if someone is essentially a vacuum cleaner trying to suck a person’s dollars into the stock market and collect fees – that’s not the way things should work.
A business owner’s best return on investment is going to be their business, every time. We look at ways to make the business a little more efficient, scale greater, or improve in other ways. Once they’re ready to diversify or grow wealth outside of their business, we’ll look at multiple avenues reaching those goals too. The stock market is a tool, and it can be an important tool, but it is just one tool out of many that can be used to accomplish someone’s goals.
We’re shifting the purpose of charity and community work through Volunteering Untapped. We focus on the volunteer, rather than necessarily the mission of the charity. It sounds a little bit backwards, but our belief is if we’re able to create an experience for a volunteer where they’re spending their entire time making a direct impact with the charity and they understand the true mission of the charity, then they’ll be more engaged. Through the work they’re doing, they’re able to meet other people who are like them. By doing things this way, we believe we will see better volunteerism, and better time well spent. All of this creates impact on a significantly greater level. We’ve shown this to be true by the number of volunteers we’ve had, and the feedback we’ve gotten from the charities we work with. I have been doing this with Volunteering Untapped for three years now and we have galvanized a segment of the population in a way others have not been able to.
Q. The strides you’ve made in transforming financial literacy and philanthropy for your generation is admirable. What is your biggest hope for the future?
A. My greatest hope for the world is humanity stops playing the short game and starts playing the long game. I think the short game is fraught with selfishness and it is dividing us.
We think about ourselves the most and ignore the larger problems humanity is facing, which are the ones we can’t see right now. They are not in front of us. It involves the planet… it involves technology. We work better and have better outcomes when we work together and right now, that’s not happening.
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