‘It was the American dream:’ Former business banker stops giving advice and starts taking it and opens first Latino-owned State Farm agency in the Philadelphia area.
HAVERFORD — Once a 3-year-old illegal immigrant from Colombia, Cristian Hernandez grew to become an American citizen who has opened the first Latino-owned State Farm agency in the Philadelphia area.
“They brought us here to give us a future that they knew we couldn’t have in Colombia,” Hernandez said. “It was the American dream. They came here to give us a future.”
Hernandez’s dad was a mathematics and physics professor and he was willing to leave that academic career so his family could have more opportunity. When they arrived in America, the family settled in Dover, N.J.
“Through his hard work, his first job here was washing toilets,” Hernandez said, adding that his mom worked at a factory. “Plans of having a future were never really in my eyes.”
One of the most influential experiences he had was when Rotary International sent him to Wolfenbuttel, Germany, during high school. “Not only did I complete and get As for my junior year there, I got to travel around Europe,” Hernandez said. “That opened my eyes to see there is so much out there in this world.”
He returned and applied to seven colleges. An eighth, Philadelphia University, contacted him and offered him a full scholarship.
During his five years there, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in business science and an MBA in international business and finance. While there, he met a recruiter for PNC, who led him to a business banker position in July 2006.
A year later, his main office was moved to Prospect Park. “I grew very partial to Delaware County,” he said. “Being a business banker, I really got to know some of the small businesses in the area. It’s a great county in my eyes.”
In 2010, he was named Hispanic Business Professional of the Year by the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. A year later, he became the 300-member organization’s president and chief operating officer.
One of the chamber’s largest members was State Farm.
“Slowly, I was like, ‘Tell me about it,’” he said.
After years of advising businesses through his banking and chamber work, he decided to do it himself. “It’s finally time to stop giving the advice and start taking my advice,” Hernandez determined.
Within a month, he completed the training program. “It is the only insurance agency that I know of that offers a six-month training program,” he said. “It is a top notch program with how they did it. They prepare for everything that’s out there.”
Hernandez will be operating the full-service agency, providing auto, fire, life and health insurance as well as the State Farm banking services such as checking and saving accounts and mortgages with team members John Hudicka and Ramona Aponte and office manager Denise Duffy.
Although he speaks three languages, Hernandez said his office is open to all.
“I love the fact that I am a multi-lingual full-service insurance center,” he said. “I am there to service everybody.”
Even his parents have found success in other careers. Hernandez’s dad now teaches math at Kean University and Dover High School and his mom works at Quest Diagnostics.
Just as his parents worked to have a better life for their children, Hernandez wants his clients to have the best for their families.
“We’re going to educate our clients, show them what’s important to them, make recommendations that they can choose to do or not to do,” he said. “I want to provide the members of my community a way that they feel comfortable coming here, protect their future and everything that’s important to them.”