“We don’t have to be bystanders”: For Luis Arguello, Jr., Creating Change is a Personal and Professional Passion

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In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), the Trust is featuring a series of conversations with Latinx philanthropists and leaders who are making a difference in the region. This article is the second in our seriesbe sure take a look back at our previous interview with Adela Cepeda.

Luis Arguello, Jr., CFA discovered a passion for philanthropy through his professional role. As vice president, portfolio manager at Northern Trust Corporation, Arguello works with individuals and nonprofit organizations, overseeing the investment of charitable dollars in support of philanthropic goals. In his personal life, he has found purpose mentoring young students from the South Side Chicago neighborhood where he grew up.

He sat down recently with Meghan Lewit, communications manager at the Trust, to discuss his personal and professional journey, and the spirit of giving in the Latinx community. Some questions and answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Meghan Lewit: How did your professional journey bring you to your current role working with philanthropic organizations?

Luis Arguello: It really starts with my interest in investing. Going into college, I would say that I was actually a lost soul. I started out in engineering and then transferred over to business when I realized that engineering wasn’t my thing. I joined Northern Trust after college in a dedicated practice called Foundation and Institutional Advisors, and we focus solely on advising nonprofit organizations. We have a responsibility to be good stewards with how we invest organizations’ money. The ultimate goal is to support their programming, so through my work I’m able to help organizations meet their mission and create change within the communities they serve.

ML: What contribution are you most proud of?

LA: On the personal side, it’s my volunteer efforts. I volunteer with an organization that was actually introduced to me through Northern Trust—it’s called Working in the Schools and it’s focused on working with third graders and helping them transition from learning to read to reading to learn. It’s a pivotal, defining moment in their education, and the cause really resonates with me because when I decided to pursue this volunteer opportunity, I learned that the organization is doing work in the neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago where I grew up. I know firsthand that I can have a positive impact on these kids’ lives.

ML: What does Hispanic Heritage mean to you?

LA: Speaking for myself, coming from a low-income or underserved community, you carry this heavy weight because your experiences may be very different from other people’s. And early in my career, I would say that I struggled with that a bit, but I learned to embrace it. So now when we’re celebrating or honoring Hispanic culture, it creates awareness of our heritage and that’s something I’m truly proud of.

ML: Tell me a little bit about the spirit of giving in the Latinx community?

LA: For me, it really starts with my mom. She was the unsung hero in my life, and I wouldn’t be here today without her support. She’s a person who is willing to give the last dollar in her name to help someone. And that’s also a part of our culture and how I was raised. The spirit of giving for us doesn’t necessarily mean a monetary contribution, but similar to my mom, I know many people who would give you the last dollar they have for the greater good. That’s been my experience with the Latinx community.

ML: What is your relationship with The Chicago Community Trust?

LA: Over the past three years, I have taken over the Northern Trust Charitable Giving Program, which is sponsored through the Trust. So, I’m the portfolio manager for Northern Trust clients who have donor advised fund [a charitable giving account established at a public charity] assets with the Trust serving as the sponsoring organization. And the great thing about this role is that I’m able to see the philanthropic efforts of our clients, and over the past year-and-a-half giving has intensified and increased exponentially. Seeing the good coming from the investment returns that support our clients’ philanthropic initiatives, I think it’s very rewarding and meaningful.

ML: Given your personal and professional engagement with organizations serving the community, what advice would you give to someone interested in getting more involved in philanthropy?

LA: The first thing I would say is don’t overthink it. Philanthropy is not only dependent on how much you can contribute, but also how much you can volunteer and the time that you give. In terms of getting started, focus on causes that are personal to you and that you can really invest your time in.

ML: How have the event of the past year-and-a-half, and the social justice issues that have come to the forefront, shifted your attitude to giving? What do you think is the role of philanthropy in advancing societal change?

LA: I think that a lot of people who were on the sidelines realized they had to be vocal, especially during the movement following the murder of George Floyd. And that’s shedding light on a lot of inequities and injustices in society. I’m seeing a lot of people stepping up to the plate, especially with clients I work with, and they’re donating big money. But I don’t want people to think that if you don’t have millions of dollars to donate that you can’t have a positive impact. Every cent counts, and volunteering and putting in your personal time can also go a long way. I think that we’re at an inflection point, and that as long as we’re being vocal and taking action we can create the change that we want. We don’t have to be bystanders in a world where we feel there are inequities and social injustices.