It was a hot summer day in 1987 when a fast-moving man set up a few tables and chairs at an unassuming church in downtown Stockton, California. That man, Guillermo Vicuña, was a dentist. He had recruited a few colleagues to give free checkups, consultations, and health services to the uninsured poor. They called it Su Salud, and although Guillermo didn’t know what to expect, five hundred people showed up on the first day.
Thirty-five years later, Leandro Vicuña is building on his father’s legacy as managing director of trust and fiduciary services at Freemont Bank. “Witnessing my father’s ability to mobilize thousands of professionals for a common good inspired me to serve others and give back to the community,” he says. By the time Vicuña was old enough to help at what became an annual health fair, Guillermo had built Su Salud into a thriving nonprofit organization whose three thousand volunteers cared for twenty thousand patients every year.
Guillermo’s family and colleagues grew to appreciate his sense of humor and grace during the all-day hectic schedule at each annual health fair. In 1991, a CNN reporter asked him what he was doing. He simply replied, “we are doing what the president is talking about doing.” Guillermo was driven by his passion and deeds. Few other leaders were as devoted or effective at helping those in need. Although he passed away in 2020, his spirit lives on.
Vicuña is also working for a cause: helping the Latino community improve financial literacy and build generational wealth. In 2013, he started a nonprofit. Where Su Salud provided health care, Sus Finanzas offered free financial education, monetary matching programs, and ongoing mentorship.
The veteran banker holds a law degree from Western Michigan University and now leads trust and fiduciary services at Fremont Bank. In this role, Vicuña advises his counterparts in the business and provides solutions to business owners and high-net-worth clients. He came to Fremont to generate revenue, increase assets under management, and rebuild the trust and investment group.
While Vicuña says the chance to leverage his experience and lead an important turnaround drew him to Fremont, he was also captivated by the opportunity to make a difference in the local area. “As a family-owned bank, we are committed to empowering people and putting dollars back into the community,” he explains.
While many banks set aside 1 percent of their funds for these efforts, Fremont dedicates 5 percent of its pre-tax earnings for Bay Area nonprofit organizations. It’s awarded 4,250 grants totaling nearly $35 million. “We also value the importance of volunteering at many local non-profit events. Contributing our time and presence matters,” the banker and lawyer added.
In addition to serving in his official role, Leandro sits on the boards of Summer Search and Latinos for Finance. In 2021, he launched HOLA, Fremont’s employee resource group created to help Hispanics and Latinos exchange ideas and discover new pathways to career advancement.
HOLA is gaining momentum. Vicuña is actively recruiting members and encouraging his colleagues to follow his lead and join nonprofit and corporate boards to achieve boardroom equity. “Board service gives you a sense of purpose and belonging,” he says. “I’ve found throughout my career that work is about so much more than fulfilling your day-to-day duties. There is more we can do with our time and our talents. It’s rewarding to share a vision and have the courage to see it through regardless of the challenges ahead”
He’s also using his platform, influence, and networks to advocate for more minority representation in banking, finance, and entrepreneurship. Latinos represent the fastest growing group of small business owners in the country. The demographic has risen 34 percent compared to 1 percent of all business owners over the past decade. Still, they face lower incomes and worse loan rates. Vicuña says he and loan officers at Fremont can give access to funds and bring positive change to the industry.
As clients navigate an uncertain stock market and review potential policy changes in 2023 with regards to estate planning and taxes, Leandro is working overtime to help Latinos and others understand the full financial picture. “Knowledge is power when it comes to handling your money, and it’s never too late to learn,” he says. “We want to educate people at age thirteen, age eighty, and at all ages in between. Setting up the next generation for success benefits all.”
Like those clients, Vicuña is thinking about where he’s been and where he’s going. He started his banking career inspired by two parents who came to a new country and sacrificed to give him an opportunity. He’s used that opportunity to help others find financial success. And now, he’s continuing to build a legacy he can leave to his own son.