Miami Insider: Investment Banker Philippe Houdard

Born in a 300-person town in Northern France, Philippe Houdard came to South Beach for a job out of school. While he loves the variety of people and afternoon runs on the beach, this investment-banker-slash-non-profit-leader tells us how the opportunities to create something new in Miami are particularly alluring.

Name, Age, Occupation: Philippe Houdard, 40, President of Non-Profit Developing Minds and Investment Banker

Neighborhood: South Beach, Miami, Florida

Abode: One-bedroom condo -- I can't believe I've actually been president of the condo association for eight years now.

How long have you lived in South Beach? I've lived here since the late '90s.
What do you love most about your neighborhood?
It's so close to the beach, I mean it's literally on the beach. You can work and when you're done working you can run on the beach and take a dive in the ocean and that's fantastic for me. And you can do that in the middle of February if you want!

Do you talk to your neighbors?
It's a three-story, Mediterranean-style condo and many of the people who live here have been here for a while so it's got a great community feel. A lot of us are friends. Actually, I had the real privilege this morning of checking someone's leak (laughing). As condo president you have to meet people on different terms so I had to check out the leaks. It's the less-glamorous part of it.

Best kept secret in South Beach?
There's a great French Bistro, A La Folie, a little, outdoor type of place on Espanola Way. That's a great little spot that's not so well known. Particularly since I was born in France that's nice. There's a place called Segafredo on Lincoln Road. It's an Italian spot, but that's probably not really a secret.

There's also a restaurant called Sylvano that's a cool neighborhood spot. It's an Italian restaurant, but it's a European-style sports place. They always have the soccer games on and sports activities that are right outside of the mainstream but I guess that's Miami. Because it's a city of immigrants there is always stuff going on outside of traditional mainstream.

Favorite way to spend a Saturday night in your neighborhood?
If you live in South Beach you don't necessarily have to be out at the clubs 'til five in the morning, which I almost never do. Most Saturday nights I will hang out at Segafredo or some outdoor cafe with a bunch of friends.

You grew up in a town of 300 in Northern France, so how is South Beach in comparison?
Well I love Latin America so when I got out of grad school I came down here for the job - but now I'm here because I love it. I feel at home here. I think in many ways South Beach and Miami is a great place for someone that wants to create something new. It's a young city and there aren't a lot of restrictions like in cities that are well established.

Your Non-Profit helps kids in violent areas in Latin America, was that born out of living in Miami?
In France my family has been effected by war in the last three generations so I wanted to create a foundation that helps address the cause of conflict and helps in post-conflict situations. In Latin American there is this violence, and so being in Miami, Latin America was a natural place to focus our work. We focus on violent areas of Rio setting up schools there, and in Colombia, working with former child-soldiers.

So South Beach is not all neon signs and partying?
There is still that element of South Beach being a playground for the world, but in many ways I find that it's evolved a lot. I think it's gotten more professional and grown up a bit as a city. I've got friends from all over the world here, some are starting companies and some are writing books. There is variety here.

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