By Lauren Panariello
While most 12 year olds were brushing their teeth and catching a school bus, Fabian Fernandez-Han was awaiting a Monday morning Skype video interview with a classroom of New York University journalism students. “I’ve been doing a lot of interviews,” said the Conroe, Texas winner of the New York Stock Exchange Financial Future Challenge, which dared participants to develop a new product that would excite their peers about the financial marketplace. The 12 year old inventor, outfitted in a rouge collared polo and neatly combed hair, stood square-shouldered in front of his computer, armed with the articulate speech of an adolescent achiever and the confidence of the constantly rewarded.
Fabian Fernandez-Han won $2,500 for his iPhone application that will teach his peers about financial literacy. The “Oink-a-Saurus,” as he calls the app, named after Fernandez-Han saw an Economist magazine article on the declining auto industry titled “Detroit-a-Saurus Rex,” will provide news updates on the state of the economy through kid-friendly metaphors and colloquial terms. The app, which also includes a faux-financial portfolio and social network, will feature a new company every week that teens show an interest in and, more important to Fabian, has socially responsible business practices.
“We believe it’s part of growing up; it’s part of being a human being,” said Peter Han, Fabian’s father, of the sense of global responsibility he shares with his children. Fabian says he may want to be a social venture capitalist, an investor who choses only socially responsible corporations, while his 16-year-old brother, Javier, is the founder of a non-profit organization, Investors Without Boarders. Fabian is scheduled to appear at a conference in Portland, Oregon, as an example of a socially conscious business-interested youth.
In a world where Bernie Madoff and failed banks grab business headlines, Fabian and his family say they want to create positive change. Javier is working on a project that will draw clean H2O from thin air, and another invention that will turn algae and bacteria into fuel.
Fabian looks to his father as an example of someone who puts his personal values before business. Peter Han quit a job of 20 years to participate in all-night inventing sessions with his two home-schooled sons. With a role model like Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, which “gives small loans to poor people who only need a little money to make more,” as described by Fabian, it’s no wonder the young inventor says he would not buy the stock of any company that doesn’t operate to his ethical standards.
“I wouldn’t buy the stock of a cigarette company,” Fabian said.
Fabian, who learned about business and finance from watching television news and reading magazines recommends Yes Magazine. “Their motto is ‘powerful ideas, practical actions’,” said Fabian. But the 12-year-old has an inspiring mantra of his own. “I work by the three P’s,” Fabian said, “people, planet, profit.” Fabian will only invest in businesses that compensate workers with a living wage, and remain mindful of the environment. As for the “profit” part of his three P’s, let’s just say Fabian wants to see a return on his honest investing.