John Schaible laughs when someone calls him a serial entrepreneur.
The label may fit, but it's probably more accurate to call him an evolving entrepreneur. Each new company feeds off lessons learned and technologies developed the last go-around.
Start with NexTrade Holdings, the electronic stock-trading system that Schaible founded in Clearwater in 1995 and grew into a global business along with Dan Caamano, who came on board as independent counsel in 2000.
After selling the bulk of NexTrade to Citigroup, Schaible, 39, and Caamano, 53, teamed up to launch Anderen Bank of Tampa Bay in 2007. The duo exited from Anderen earlier this year, setting the stage for their next project: a bank holding company called Atlas Federal.
"Atlas Federal really is a complete culmination of all the experiences I've had and Dan has had over the last 20 years," Schaible said. "This is the best opportunity we've ever built."
Atlas isn't your typical Florida startup bank. Set up in Panama, it would be able to avoid some of the still-developing U.S. regulations that Schaible and Caamano say would stifle growth. Instead, Atlas would largely tap international deposits and brokerage dollars from Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, and then deploy that money in Florida to small businesses hungry for bank loans.
The two recently talked about their vision. Here are excerpts:
How did Atlas Federal originate?
Caamano: About three months ago, when we exited Anderen, we wanted to take advantage of economic factors that would enable us to profit from different opportunities … to access assets that are currently undervalued. What we wanted to do was purchase another bank. We did due diligence for two or three different banks and then concluded the banks that we were looking at would have to be restructured to be profitable in the short term … so we decided to shy away from buying a bank.
We also looked at economic trends. What we're seeing now are two major events that are causing a paradigm shift. One is the globalization of financial products and the other one is the technology that creates cross-border opportunities without having to physically move from Point A to Point B.
So we looked at that and said, "Let's go ahead and create a financial center." Not just a bank but a financial center where we would have three profit centers, or three silos, all of them wholly owned by a holding company based here in the Tampa Bay area: Atlas Federal Holding Corp.
What are the three silos?
Caamano: The first silo is a bank because our interest is in globalization and trying to take advantage of certain economies that would not be going through the same type of recession as us. The second leg, or silo, is a commercial finance company set up here in Florida to service cash flow with asset-based lending, factoring and structured finance. The third leg we're talking about is a brokerage firm that we currently have under contract.
Schaible: On the online trading side, we'll be utilizing a lot of technology that NexTrade owns and had developed over the last 15 years.
How much of the original NexTrade do you still own after the Citigroup deal?
Schaible: We sold a portion of our technology and we sold a company called OnTrade to Citigroup. So what is actually NexTrade was never sold. The division we sold was the biggest and the one that got us our most coverage and market awareness. We retained a large chunk of the system technology, online trading technology, certain patented instruments that we had created.
We employed several hundred at the old NexTrade and now we employ 15. So it's that scale of difference. It's become a holding investment company more than anything else.
On your website, I noticed "Coming Soon" tags for Atlas Federal Bank itself and the commercial finance company. This is still a work in progress?
Schaible: Very much so. Just like when we started Anderen. We're in the process of raising money for Atlas Federal to get the bank and commercial finance company going. In the first phase, we're raising $25 million and we've got about $19 million in commitments. That's largely for the bank, (but) we're also looking to acquired certain types of brokerage firms in the state that, if we buy the right one, will allow us to drive deposits of the bank working through a Panamanian bank.
Caamano: We looked at what is the best place to set up the bank to achieve this goal. We're going to be global. Can we do it in the state of Florida? There's a lot of regulatory constraints. We were also concerned about ... the new financial regulatory agency just approved.
We've been doing business in Panama for about seven years. We went to Panama and met with several attorneys, several bankers. We reasserted what we already knew: that Panama is a great banking center. From Panama, we'd be able to do business in Latin America, in Europe, in the Middle East, in the Far East, anywhere in the U.S. The bank will be able to conduct banking activities that otherwise would not be permitted in the U.S.
Why is it so difficult setting up in the U.S. with the regulatory environment here?
Schaible: It's impossible to define — the way the rules are written — the extent of intrusion that will exist 18 months out under (the new rules). It casts such a cloud of uncertainty that raising capital is almost impossible domestically now. People sometimes think that quantity of regulation relates to quality of regulation. And that is certainly not the case.
What are your goals?
Caamano: After we open the bank (in first quarter 2011), the company will be very profitable after the first year. What we intend to do is basically pay dividends the first year and the second year and then take the company public and have an exit strategy.