Paying Homage to His Past
When it comes to his clients, Jacky Petit-Homme, co-founder of Philadelphia’s Liberty One Financial Advisors — a firm that now has $75 million in AUM and has grown in just two years to serve approximately 120 households — draws on the experiences of his Haitian parents and those who came before them.
To understand what drives Jacky Petit-Homme, and the qualities he espouses that led to last year’s win as RIA Intel’s first-ever Industry Advocate of the Year, you must first understand how his ancestors shaped the trajectory of his life.
Jacky was born in South Florida to immigrant parents, and like so many other recently arrived Americans, his mother and father understood the opportunity that their new home afforded their family, and particularly the educational opportunities that it offered their children. And yet, as Black, Caribbean immigrants, they were also uniquely positioned to understand that while hard work and dedication to one’s education could help their children capitalize on those opportunities, doing well in school and toiling away at work did not guarantee their success.
This recognition explains the fear and confusion that Marie-Nicole, Jacky’s mother, felt when he told her that he was leaving a steady investment bank job to start his own firm, Liberty One Wealth Advisors, in 2021. As he explained it, she envisioned her once upwardly mobile son becoming “homeless and without clients.” But it also explains why, had he been alive at the time, Jacky’s father, Serge Petit-Homme Jr. — a serial entrepreneur and telecommunications engineer who helped create the first uniform identification card for the entire country of Haiti — would have been confidently cheering his son from the sidelines. While Jacky’s ascent is a uniquely American one, his roots are deeply entrenched in the soil of Hispaniola, the island split between the Dominican Republic in the east and Jacky’s parents’ home, Haiti, in the west.
Perhaps the question that must be asked first in any discussion of Haiti is, “What could have been?” Spain, then France, laid claim to the land once inhabited by the Taino and Arawakan people, but the Spanish eventually abandoned the island when the pirates that had plagued their shipping became unmanageable. The French then decided to try their hand — they built their first settlement in 1625 and made Saint-Domingue (today’s Haiti) an official colony in 1659. They also quickly transported more than 800,000 enslaved people (almost double the amount brought to North America) from their homes in Africa to work the sugar, coffee, cacao, and coffee plantations.
Those enslaved Africans would quickly make Saint-Domingue the most profitable colony of any imperial power on Earth — but also the home of one of the world’s most violent and lethal slave systems. These two realities make what happened next even more remarkable. After nearly 150 years of French rule, Saint-Domingue’s African descendants successfully defeated Napoleon, overthrew their captors, liberated themselves from the French, and built the first independent, Black nation in the Americas. Haiti remains the only nation to have emerged as the result of a successful rebellion of its enslaved peoples.
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Nevertheless, countless powers continued to conspire to prevent Haiti from having a hand in its own destiny. In addition to a near worldwide embargo on the newly formed nation’s products, France continued to subjugate their former colony by forcing the Haitians to pay the descendants of their former slave masters. As the New York Times reported in May 2022, “The first people in the modern world to free themselves from slavery and create their own nation were forced to pay for their freedom yet again — in cash.” The Times estimated that the “reparations” that Haiti paid to France would be valued today at over $115 billion — an amount “more than [eight] times bigger than Haiti’s economy in 2020” — and that the average Haitian would be more than six times as wealthy as the average Dominican today had this money stayed in Haiti’s economy. So the question of “What could have been?” appears tragically difficult, if not nearly impossible to answer.
That is, until you consider Jacky Petit-Homme, the American-born son of those who won their freedom from Napoleon’s mighty army. Jacky is the answer to that question. Jacky is what can be.
Much like his ancestors before him, Jacky chafed at the idea of bowing to the demands of a larger power — in this case, his investment bank employers. He also felt that his dreams couldn’t be realized within the confines of an organization whose values — generating profits and pleasing shareholders — were not only very different from his own, but also often came at the expense of the financial well-being of the clients with whom both he and they worked. As he put it, “It felt like we were, at times, standing between our firm and our clients.”
Experiences like these led Jacky and his colleagues Fan Feng and Guilian DiLeonardo to question whether they might not be better off on their own. They hadn’t planned to leave, and for a time they believed the company’s assurances that they were making the latest and greatest resources available to their employees and, subsequently, to their clients. But when another team in the company with whom they were close decided to leave and start their own firm, the three employees had an epiphany. “It wasn’t on our radar that you could do that. This team was stable. They had been there significantly longer than we had, and we said, ‘Wow, if they’re leaving, there must be something [to it].’ It gave us a reason to explore the other side of the coin.”
Jacky, Fan, and Guilian began by creating a “magic wand” that they used to envision the kind of firm that would be the best place for both them and their clients. After months of interviewing a number of potential employers, they came up with the answer: independence. Jacky recalls the moment as though he were uncovering a diamond in the sand while combing the beach for lost change. The trio truly didn’t expect that their research would lead them down a path that ended with their own firm, but they were buoyed by the fact that they had come to this conclusion only after “overturning every stone.”
“For anyone who truly thinks about what they’re doing and how they’re serving their customers, the question of ‘Is this the right place for our clients?’ is always in the back of your mind,” Jacky said. “We want to ensure that the client knows we’re working for them. Period. No one else. My job is to make sure that your family is making the best financial decisions today to put you in a better place tomorrow. That is my only intention and motivation.”
Much like the former leaders of his ancestral home fought for liberty and equality, Jacky and his colleagues have continued the tradition of promoting financial liberty and providing for those in need with their work at Liberty One. Recognizing how he has benefited from a lifetime of relationships with people who have made it their business to look after him, Jacky is committed to paying back his own success. He does this by mentoring at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and delivering care packages throughout Philadelphia.
“I never felt that I was wanting,” he said. “Even with immigrant parents, I never felt disadvantaged. But seeing someone get excited about receiving things that I take for granted allows me to take inventory of myself.” He does it through the free financial advice he dispenses to anyone who calls Liberty One seeking help, especially those folks who don’t yet have the money to be counted as one of his clients. And he does it through his Financial Freedom curriculum and classes, which are designed to help families build generational wealth — perhaps as an ode to his ancestral home, which was robbed of just such an opportunity.