How upbringing inspired advisor's people-first approach

Josue Dubon is a young man on a mission with DesignWealth – to give everyday people access to sound, affordable financial advice

How upbringing inspired advisor's people-first approach

Josue Dubon likes to joke that when he starts giving prospective clients his “money is worthless” speech, he can see the panic in their eyes. But when they realize he’s making a point about how money is just a means for them to live the life they want, their expression soon changes.

Dubon, Wealth Mentor at DesignWealth in Victoria, B.C., has no problem confounding expectations. In the first meetings with clients, he doesn’t even talk about money. Instead, he takes them through a process to find out what they really care about in life. The other aspect that often surprises people is Dubon’s relative youth. While financial planners and advisors are often stereotyped as heading towards their later years, Dubon is 26, with the CFP qualification under his belt, and having already co-founded his own business.

At the heart of his approach is first-hand experience of what it’s like to live pay cheque to pay cheque and the stress that can put upon a person. While Dubon made it clear that, as a child, he was never allowed to feel the reality, the effects of money worries on his parents and grandmother left an indelible mark.

He told WP that his grandmother simply didn’t know she needed financial advice and, when his grandfather passed, assumed his life insurance would pay off the mortgage they had together, which was far from the case.

“No one was there to help her,” Dubon said. “I look back on that scenario and ask whether there was something that I could have done to change that because my grandfather would not have wanted her to go through so much struggle and stress.”

When he was much older he looked through old bank booklets, which showed withdrawals and deposits, and realized there were moments when his parents had just $2 to their name. His family are in a healthier financial position now but when he mentioned the booklets to his mother, she became emotional. Dubon added: “Both of those scenarios stuck with me and I definitely felt like I wanted to change that situation for other people so they wouldn’t have to experience it.”

Originally from Winnipeg, he began that quest at a boutique firm in the city. Trained by “fantastic individuals” and top professionals he was nevertheless soon aware that the minimum investment amount – which was around half a million dollars – would obviously exclude the type of people he wanted to help. He understood his previous firm’s business model but he and now business partner Jared Webb decided they wanted to help those who didn’t have that kind of money, or who were even in debt, and give them access to financial advice. DesignWealth was born.

In taking new clients through various scenarios, they address the possibility of illness and mortality, and ask them, if they died now, what would they miss? Who did they not get to be? What did they not get to do?

Dubon said: “Very rarely do I get someone that says, ‘Oh, I regret not having invested money’. It’s always, ‘I wish I had more time with my family’ or that ‘I wish I’d made amends with my siblings’; those kinds of conversations. Money is a side note. Our slogan is ‘People first, money second’; we don't talk about money to begin with as it’s simply a means to support us.”

DesignWealth charges clients 1.25% of their household income annually, billed monthly, and this is factored into the client’s financial plan. Each Wealth Mentor is capped out at 125 households to ensure the quality of the relationship does not drop. The business is growing, and Dubon and Webb are looking to bring in more mentors over the long term.

Dubon added: “DesignWealth was started with a question: what could we do for ‘the normal person’? Not necessarily a person making half a million or has half a million in assets but a person going to work, maybe having kids and wanting to get by and have a better perspective on that. That's who DesignWealth is for and I can't say enough about how grateful I am to learn about people and how open they are with me. I know it takes a degree of trust.”

And what does his grandmother, who still lives in Winnipeg, make of the career she helped inspire?

“I called her when I initially got my CFP and told her this is dedicated to her and my grandfather,” he said. “She didn't say anything, but you could hear she was crying. I think they're very proud of me.”