Opportunities present themselves when and where they will, and so it is that Robert Clements' EverBank has a bigger following outside Florida than here where it's based. The company has $4 billion in assets, but only $200 million in Florida deposits.
New Orleans native Clements was doing leveraged buyouts for Merrill Lynch in New York, hankering to operate a company and to raise his children in the South, when he came upon Jacksonville mortgage originator Alliance Mortgage. He teamed with other investors and in 1994 bought the 200-employee company. It had $200 million in assets and did $3.5 billion in mortgage servicing.
EverBank Financial Corp.
Father of four: His wife, Poppy Hicks, is from Jacksonville, but they met in New York.
Family time: Tennis, boating, vacationing in New York and skiing in Vail.
In New York: The Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue at Central Park and its Doubles Club.
On Jacksonville: "The city has certainly met my expectations as far as a place to raise a family."
Quote: "It's been very gratifying to be involved with a company over this many years and see the success we've experienced and working with a very
A lot has happened since. His management team launched First Alliance Bank in 1998, partnered with Bank of New York to offer mortgages in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, bought Jacksonville's Marine National Bank, partnered with Priceline to offer mortgages online and in 2002 bought "branchless" EverBank. In 2004, the entire operation was renamed EverBank. The fast-growing mortgage business and virtual banking dominated management's attention. EverBank's website and product offerings frequently get glowing reviews and recommendations from trade publications and financial advice columns. Today, it originates $12 billion in mortgages annually and services $36 billion in loans.
EverBank is the largest bank headquartered in Jacksonville, where it has 1,000 of its 1,500 employees. It has 30 offices outside Florida, but only four branches here. That's changing. Last year, Clements, 44, in addition to opening another Jacksonville branch, opened commercial lending offices in Orlando and Sarasota. He plans to make EverBank a statewide retail institution. To raise its prominence, EverBank will anchor a new Jacksonville riverfront office tower where it will be the signature tenant.
Says Clements, "There's a lot of optimism about our long-term prospects to build out a Florida banking franchise. For us it's really taking advantage of what the market presents."
"The lawsuit is the proof that we're not just talking the talk -- we're walking the walk," says Paul Simino, founder of Oldsmar-based student loan consolidator OneSimpleLoan.
Simino's company last year sued the U.S. Department of Education over new rules that restricted borrowers' ability to consolidate federally guaranteed student loans. The rules hurt his business but more importantly hurt borrowers, says Simino, 32. He went into student loan consolidation in 2003 after 9/11 dampened prospects for his timeshare vacation-booking business.
His company earns fees from institutions that refinance his clients. It handled upward of $250 million in loans last year.Simino says he strives to bring professionalism to the field and to put borrowers' interests ahead of lenders.
Brant Keller, 44, certified financial planner, founder, Financial Advisory Consultants, Naples, 156 clients and $150 million in assets under management.
Seth Ellis, 51, and Michael Poole, 50, founders of newly created Gator Mezzanine Fund, Winter Park, provider of loans of $500,000 to $3 million for Florida companies with at least $5 million in revenue and at least $500,000 in cash flow. Poole remains a principal in PCE Investment Bankers.
On the Move
In January, Tracey Sellers moved up from senior manager to managing director, and thus part-owner, of True Partners Consulting, a new Chicago-based national tax consulting firm with big plans.
Founded in 2006 by five former Arthur Andersen partners who have gathered $20 million in venture capital, True Partners wants rapid expansion. In the wake of Sarbanes-Oxley, which discourages accounting firms from
doing both audit and tax and transaction accounting for the same clients, the firm hopes to capitalize with its tax- and transaction-only focus.
Sellers, an Andersen alum like the founders, expects the Tampa office to grow from its current 13 employees to 20 this year and to $2.5 million in revenue. It focuses on businesses and high-net worth individuals.
A resident of Florida since she was 7, Sellers followed her husband, Bob Sellers, a Kraft Foods manager, through transfers around Florida and then Chicago, all the while working for the Florida Department of Revenue, even after the move to Chicago. While there in 1996, however, she joined Arthur Andersen and was transferred to Tampa in 1997 as her husband was transferred. She later joined Deloitte & Touche and then True Partners. "It's what I consider to be an extremely exciting opportunity," she says.
Birthplace: Havana, though her family later moved to Las Villas. Her husband, Antonio, whom she met while both were with Arthur Andersen -- he's CFO now for an exporter -- also is from Las Villas. She came to the U.S. at age 6.
Photo: Daniel Portnoy
Last year brought a major change for Grisel Vega. A CPA, she was promoted from first vice president and comptroller to the senior post at Banco de Cr?ito e Inversiones in Miami, BCI's only full bank branch outside of Chile. "The increased opportunity for me is a challenge," says Vega, 45. "It's opening a new horizon in my professional career."
The Cuba native and University of Miami accounting grad succeeded prominent international banker Fernando Capablanca, a former president of the Florida International Bankers Association, who moved to Union Credit Bank in Miami.
Vega had been with him since BCI's office opened in 1999, but in the bean-counter role. Now she is working to expand BCI's commercial lending in Florida with an initial focus in Miami and outreach to Jacksonville, where she expects the bank to build on its ties with exporters and importers using the port. BCI Miami ranked ninth among international banks in loans in the third quarter, with $194.7 million, an increase of 78% from the 2005 third quarter. The 32-employee branch ranked 10th in assets at $582.6 million, a 50% increase.
Like other international bankers in Miami, Vega has to deal with clients on the increased disclosure and
reporting requirements since 9/11, many of which foreign nationals chafe at and which has cost Miami significant business ["On the Money," January, FloridaTrend.com]. Vega recalls one client politely telling her as she sought to document the reasons behind one transaction, "Se?rita, that's my money. Can't I give it to whom I want?"
But Vega says nations and bankers globally are moving to the same sort of reporting the United States requires, noting that "slowly but surely everybody's going to be on the same playing field."