Rob Larson - innovator with a practical touch

Posted on Thu, 08/01/2019 - 12:30pm

By Tracy Poyser

Rob LarsonAs you know, we entrust the oversight, governance and future of our joint Malibu East condo home to the voluntary care of 12 fellow residents whose names many don’t remember after the annual election and meeting. And, although our Board meetings are open to all residents, attendance is comparable to that of a foreign art movie on a fine summer day – around 20 on a good day, counting the Board members. That’s why we hope this profile of one of our youngest and newest Board members, Robert (Rob) Larson, will introduce you to a dynamic, down-to-earth neighbor with a bunch of talent, a big heart and a smile to match.

Rob was almost reluctant to become the poster man of the Dialogue’s August issue – he doesn’t brag. What attracted him most to running for the Board last year was his lifelong interest in construction, both the physical and the financial aspects. His decision was enthusiastically encouraged by his wife, our energetic former Board member Kim O’Neal-Larson, whom he had married in January 2018 after a year’s courtship.

The two of them are still knee-deep in construction: They just finished rebuilding and moving into a high-floor A unit. They are in the process of combining that with the adjacent B apartment which they just gutted down to the bare concrete. It’s great fun and lots of running space for their dog, a 2½-year-old Cockapoo named Grover and self-appointed building inspector.

Although Rob had spent most of his professional life as a financial trader, construction was part of his family’s tradition. His granddad, his father and his brother all were professional tradesmen/carpenters in home and other construction. He remembers that, when he was four years old, he helped his dad building a family summer home on a five-acre parcel in Harbor Springs, Mich. He’s proud of Kim’s demanding job as a top salesperson for ShopperTrak in Chicago and wants to be sure she gets time out. They’re both outdoor enthusiasts, and their healthy lifestyle includes mountain biking, scuba diving, fly fishing and just plain enjoying nature – plus vacation travels to Europe, including England, Ireland, Sweden and France.

Rob is a Midwesterner through and through. He grew up in south suburban Dolton and South Holland; his mom hailed from Chicago’s South Shore, and his dad from the Irving Park neighborhood. His great-great-grandfather, a carpenter who died at age 40 in the early 1900s, is buried in Rosehill Cemetery. After grade school in Dolton and South Holland, he landed a full scholarship at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora and was among the second class of graduates from this then-brand-new state-run high school. College took him to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he got degrees in engineering, finance and economics.

He spent the first seven years of his professional career on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. As a member at the CME, he traded in stock index futures as the first person to trade electronically through the Singer/Wenger Trading Co. (a clearing firm that guarantees trades and carries out a trader’s paperwork). Prompted by a major upheaval in the industry around 2000, he decided to put on his construction helmet for a few years, working with his brother’s home construction company in Homer Glen. He lived in the South Loop for three years before he met Kim and moved into Malibu East.

He’s now back in the financial sector as an options trader with XR Trading, a Loop-based proprietary trading company focusing on a variety of separate asset classes. It gives him independence and time for his construction projects at home and at his and Kim’s vacation home in Michigan.

Rob was pleased and surprised to be elected to our Board of Directors as a relative newcomer to our building and immediately signed up for committee work in areas that utilize his skills in construction, finance, aesthetics and teamwork. He serves as assistant treasurer, chairs the Long-Term Planning Committee, co-chairs the new Green Committee with Sam Bullock, and serves on the Architecture, Aesthetics & Building Services Committee as well as the Long-Term Planning, Admissions and Pet committees (Grover insisted on the latter).

Although that seems like a lot, he really loves being involved, and estimates it takes average 5-6 hours of his time a month in addition to Board meetings, mostly for the admissions interviews of new residents. He loves to contribute to innovative ideas that spur the involvement of residents, such as the new and very informative quarterly community forums focusing on current issues such as the switch to Comcast and the master plan for the exterior atrium/landscaping project. Long-term planning includes a fourth-floor master plan still under development, which ties into the reserve study currently underway.

What have been the surprises or frustrations? He didn’t expect our management staff to be as good and knowledgeable as they are, especially Sudler account supervisor Dean Lerner, our property manager Violette Deschamps and assistant manager Melody Keegan – as well as the other dedicated staff people. And, he greatly enjoys the diverse and lively personalities of his fellow Board members and their willingness to consider fresh views and new approaches to tricky issues.

He just wishes more of our neighbors would find the time to participate in what’s happening and contribute ideas to the committees and work groups that are open to residents. “It’s given me a real sense of belonging in this vertical global village of ours,” he says. Rob wants his neighbors to know that there’s no barrier between Board members and residents – we all live here and are invested in our building’s well-being and future.

So, don’t hesitate to approach Rob with suggestions or questions – he’s that tall guy with the vivacious wife Kim and a friendly, champagne-colored pooch who doesn’t growl. Rob won’t either.