be_ixf;ym_202404 d_18; ct_150

EU Alumni Perspective: David Sebastian

Name: David Sebastian

Graduation Year: 2009

Major: Accounting

Current Position: family office, CFO

City and State: Dallas

Tell us about your career and what you do now.

I started my journey as a staff accountant after completing my master’s degree and CPA. I was working for a small firm in the beautiful town of Sun Valley, Idaho. At that time, I had no idea that Sun Valley was home to some of the most affluent people in the world, but I soon found out as I began working with high-net-worth individuals.

From there, I moved on to work at Deloitte in downtown San Francisco, where there were more people in my office building than in the entire town of Sun Valley! It was always a dream of mine to work in the big city, and I got more than I bargained for. I went from working with clients who had a net worth of $50 million to working with clients who were making $50 million a year.

During my time at Deloitte, I realized that I was getting burnt out in public accounting and decided to make a change. That’s when I transitioned into a multi-family office. I’ve always loved talking about money and working with families, so this was a dream come true. Here, I deal with all sorts of things and help families make the most of their wealth.

A family office is essentially a one-stop-shop for affluent families who are trying to organize their investments and have so much personal admin work that they need to hire someone like me. I’m the quarterback, the main point person who ensures everything is running smoothly, and on average, the family has 27+ advisors. These advisors could be bankers, insurance agents, investment advisors, kids, property managers, and more.

I work with a small number of families, which allows me to go very deep in my relationship with them. It’s not just about managing their finances, but also understanding their personal and family dynamics, values, and goals. It’s like being part of their family, but with a professional twist.

I manage everything from payroll, 401k’s, Private foundations, Donor Advised Funds, $500m family limited partnerships, and more. Across all my clients, I manage about $50m in spending a year, which means I’m constantly seeing new things every day. But despite all these responsibilities, what truly makes my job fulfilling is that my clients see me as more of a financial therapist than anything. I listen to their worries, offer guidance, and help them navigate complex financial decisions.

It’s a privilege to be entrusted with my client’s wealth and financial future. I take my role seriously and strive to build lasting relationships based on trust, transparency, and empathy. In this book, I’ll share with you some of the insights and lessons I’ve learned from my clients and my own personal experience to help you achieve your financial goals and build a lasting legacy for your family.

What is your favorite memory from Evangel?

I look back at my time at Evangel and I can say that it was truly transformative for me. One of the things that stands out the most is the community of people I was surrounded by – from the dorms to the football team to the day-to-day school life. It was a place where relationships were formed and connections were made that lasted long after graduation. But what really set Evangel apart was the emphasis on spiritual development. The professors challenged us not just academically but also spiritually, and chapel was a time when we could come together as a community and grow in our faith.

Looking back, I realize that Evangel played a critical role in helping me identify and develop my calling. Through my experiences there, I was able to understand better who I was as an individual and as a son of Christ. As my relationship with Christ grew stronger, my sense of identity became clearer and more defined. And that in turn shaped and informed my everyday life, helping me to discern what God had designed me to do. Evangel was truly a formative experience for me, and I am grateful for the ways it shaped me into the person I am today.

How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?

After graduation, I decided to move to the Bay Area. It was an environment unlike anything I had experienced before, filled with constant motion, a fast-paced lifestyle, and an abundance of tempting distractions. Despite San Francisco being a difficult place to be, I was always going against the current. The pull was really strong, however, by not giving in to the current, I gained strength by swimming against it. Over time, I became even stronger than before wrestling with all the things that the city was throwing at me from greed, to status climbing, to the intense sexual environment. I was faced with difficult decisions that forced me to define my faith and my work. The city had an incredible turnover, but with God’s help, I was able to thrive in the environment instead of falling prey to the temptations around me. The foundation of identity that was built at Evangel, was a rock for me to stay true to myself. When the current is pulling you downstream, it’s hard to hold on, but God was SO faithful and he brought me to a place I would have never been if it was for those 8 years of struggle.

What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?

Diving deep into who you are is crucial. When working with high-net-worth families, we always ask, “Who am I within the family? Who am I outside of it? What role do I play?” This is equally important when preparing for the workforce. Knowing your strengths and your identity and how God designed you to be, and the more you discover about yourself, the more you allow God’s design to shine.  Through this personal growth, he will lead you to the exact place where He wants you to be.

On a practical note I always give this career advise: The foundation of a successful career is like a three-legged stool, which can be challenging to line up perfectly, but if two legs are aligned, it can be a strong step in the right direction and your stabilized once you have all three legs aligned. When starting out, you may only be able to get one leg of the stool, but that’s perfectly fine. The first leg of the stool is your location – where you want to live and why. The second leg is your industry, with countless options to choose from, including finance, health, arts, and many more. The third leg is your job function, which can vary from back-office work to sales to HR and everything in between. Aligning all three legs of the stool will help you stabilize your career, and give you a nice place to sit!  From there just add padding! However, it’s perfectly fine to start with one out of the three legs, knowing that you can work your way up. By working hard and intentionally within a company, you can start in a sales job and end up in HR or start in the back office and work your way up to a sales job. It takes time and effort to get everything working in sync, but it’s worth it for a successful and fulfilling career.

When I started out I only had 1 leg.  It was accounting and it wasn’t even Auditing like I wanted, it was tax…  I wanted to live in a city, and I was in Sun Valley. Idaho with 3,500 people.  Looking back, I think I had a half a leg set in place.  But slowly over time I shaped and added to the stool to build the career God Designed me for.

What are you working on now?

I have recently written a book titled The Money Mind for Kids: 7 Secrets the Wealthy Teach Their Children. I’d love to give you all a free copy.  I have gained a wealth of knowledge on finance and financial literacy through my experiences as a CFO. I have been privileged to share this knowledge with my families and their heirs, helping them to manage their money and prepare for the next generation. Although managing money can be complicated, I believe there are fundamental topics that everyone needs to know, regardless of where they are in their financial journey.

As a member of the Evangel Network, I would like to offer a free copy to anyone who is interested in reading. You can access your free copy through the link provided here.

What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?

In this day and age, with an abundance of technology and endless information, it’s crucial to remain humble and continue to learn. Additionally, it’s challenging to find people who are willing to work hard, even if it’s a seemingly small task. However, if you can bring value to the company by performing your duties twice as fast, you’ll quickly become a valuable asset to your team. As believers, we must prioritize how we treat our relationships with others within the company, whether they’re above, at the same level, or below us. It’s important to demonstrate respect, love, and compassion, regardless of someone’s position in the company hierarchy. By prioritizing these relationships, we’re fulfilling our responsibility as followers of Christ and representing His love in the workplace.