May 29, 2023

Retail and Commercial Banking

Trendsetters - March 2005

Mike Vogel | 3/1/2005
Two for the Record Books

U.S. Century Bank
Octavio Hern?ndez

President, CEO / U.S. Century BankWatching Octavio Hern?ndez and his U.S. Century Bank in Miami, you might think banking is a can't-lose proposition. In 2002, Hern?ndez and his founding group raised $30 million to start the bank, a record sum for Florida, says Florida Bankers Association President Alex Sanchez. A couple of years later, Hern?ndez has seven branches, two more on the way and $415 million in assets. The bank was profitable in its third month and turned a $2.5-million profit for 2004.

The 47-year-old Cuba native came to America as a boy. He started in banking as a management trainee at Coral Gables Federal and rose at three other banks before becoming president at First Bank of Miami and at Bankers Savings Bank. The key in Miami is to understand the ethnic makeup, Hern?ndez says.

The bank bills itself as expert in the construction industry and commercial real estate. It clearly also has a niche among Hispanic entrepreneurs. Organizer and founding chairman is lawyer Ram?n Rasco. Other board members include Sergio Pino, CEO of Century Homebuilders, and Sedano's Super-market CEO Manuel Herr?n.

Hern?ndez looks to end 2005 with more than $500 million in assets. He wants to open four or five more Miami-Dade branches and an equal number in Broward. Says Hern?ndez, "Our plan is to make a very big footprint."

Great Florida Bank
Mehdi Ghomeshi

President, CEO / Great Florida BankThe record U.S. Century Bank set for raising startup capital didn't last long. Mehdi Ghomeshi and Great Florida Bank opened in 2004 and raised an unheard of for Florida $60 million. Great Florida ended its first six months with three branches and $345 million in assets. Ghomeshi expects to end this year with $700 million and another 12 to 15 branches.

Ghomeshi says the record start is owed to the people involved. Great Florida's board includes Susana Ibarguen, civic volunteer and wife of Miami Herald publisher Alberto Ibarguen, former gubernatorial candidate Daryl L. Jones and public relations executive Leslie V. Pantin Jr.

And then there's Ghomeshi. A native of Iran, he came to the States in 1975 as an 18-year-old University of Miami student. He wanted something more entrepreneurial than banking for a career, but a teacher recommended he try the old Barnett Bank. He liked it. Barnett, he says, gave him leeway to make decisions and mistakes without punishment. "I learned a lot," he says. There he made his name.

In 1999, he suffered a serious heart attack. Ghomeshi, 47, says his health is neither better nor worse since the attack, and he plans to scale back to focus on strategy and customer relations. He delegates operations. "They really don't need me, believe it or not," he says.

Turnaround Specialist
Alan Rowe

President, CEOFirst Commercial Bank of Florida, Orlando: Chartered 1999. Year-end 2004 assets: $365 million, up 49%. After-tax profit: $3.2 million, up 77.8%. Six offices in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

Bio: 48, born in Jacksonville and raised on Merritt Island. Worked as a teller and credit-card debt collector after high school while in community college.

Been there, done that: Two bank turnarounds, first at Commercial State Bank of Orlando (sold to South-Trust) and United American Bank of Central Florida (sold to Colonial Bank).

Toughest part: Building core deposits and competition. "Everybody's trying to cut each other's throat. You have to position your bank and strategy where you're not competing just on price."

Next: Add an office this year and finish 2005 with $460 million to $465 million in assets.

Getaways: Basketball, a cabin at Beech Mountain, N.C., and boating and water-skiing around Orlando.

Family: Wife, Machele; sons, Taylor, 13, and Kendall, 9; and daughter, Monica, 7.

Volunteering: 2005 chairman, Small Business Chamber, Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce; president-elect, Kiwanis Club of South Orlando.

Outlasting Tech
John M. "Jack" Barrett

President, CEOFirst Citrus Bank: Chartered 1999. Year-end assets: $145 million, up 20% from 2003. Earnings: $820,000 after-tax, up 45%. Two offices in Tampa.

Bio: 41, holds the Esse Quam Videre award, the University of Tampa's highest alumni achievement honor.

Founding a bank: Put $20,000 in office furniture on his personal credit card. Ate lots of meals with prospective investors to raise the $5.6 million that initially capitalized the bank. "My waistline grew a couple inches."

The difficulty: Competing in 1999 with tech stocks. It was as if investors said, "What do I want to do with a community bank? I'm getting 1,000% return with my tech stock."

Five-year vision: $500 million in assets. "There's a vacuum of large, independent banks in Florida. A personal goal is to build that type of institution."

Toughest part of banking in Florida: Building deposits.

Family: Wife, Kristen; son, Maximillian, 3; and daughter, Grace, 1.

Golf handicap: 9.

A Wealth of Experience
Douglas P. Regan

PresidentNorthern Trust of Florida: $29 billion in assets, up 5% from 2003. Twenty-five offices from Key Biscayne to Vero and Naples to St. Petersburg.

Bio: 41, a native of South Bend, Ind., where his dad was director of development for Notre Dame. "Dealing with wealthy people was in my blood." A guitar player, he made his entertainment money in high school and college playing in bands.

From parents: "The power of savings and the importance of giving."

College: Notre Dame English major with a poetry concentration.

Law school: Illinois Institute of Technology/Chicago Kent College of Law. He was once a staffer for then-Sen. Dan Quayle.

Service: In the hurricanes, Northern employees reserved hotel rooms for clients, put up shutters and personally drove a client's art collection to higher ground. "We are servants to our clients."

Next: Open offices in Jacksonville and Orlando.

Family: Wife, Carolyn; daughters, Maggie, 16, and Katie, 15.

Refreshment: Running, guitar playing.

Tags: Trendsetters, Banking & Finance

Florida Business News

Florida News Releases

Florida Trend Video Pick

Answering the call as a community's workforce
Answering the call as a community's workforce

Tonjua Williams, president of St. Petersburg College, describes SPC's mission and goals, discusses the evolution of the education landscape, and details SPC's adaptation to changing needs in labor force preparation.

Video Picks | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

DeSantis or Disney?

  • DeSantis
  • Disney
  • None of the above
  • I'm just in it for the popcorn

See Results

Florida Trend Media Company
490 1st Ave S
St Petersburg, FL 33701

© Copyright 2023 Trend Magazines Inc. All rights reserved.