Miami banking leaders share menu of sought-after qualities

by | Jan 12, 2022 | Education & Training

A scan of job openings in Miami’s banking industry shows that every post — ranging from junior financial analyst for an international client to senior regulatory compliance officer —requires “good communication skills, accuracy and efficiency, cooperative personality and a quick learner.”

John Harriman has all those qualities and more, which makes him someone “who commands respect,” said Bernie Navarro, president of Benworth Capital Partners, who nominated Mr. Harriman as a banking leader in Miami most respected by his peers.

“As the chief operating of­ficer for the Florida Interna­tional Bankers Association (FIBA), John has financial over­sight of an organization that’s the true voice and champion of international banking,” said Mr. Navarro. “FIBA is the watch­dog for the industry and pro­tects it.”

Such an important position requires the trust of member banks, Mr. Navarro said. “John commands respect, which is what makes him so effective in this role, spearheading the day-to-day fiscal management and ensuring FIBA’s continued fi­nancial viability,” he said. “He’s a natural leader.”

On its staff as COO for 11/2 years, Mr. Navarro said “John has been a part of FIBA since its inception [in 1979, including serving as its chair] and has played a vital role in its evolu­tion on a local, national and international scale.”

Mr. Harriman began his inter­national banking career with Bankers Trust in New York. He spent six years in the bank’s Brazil office as senior represen­tative before returning to New York to become area head for Brazil and the Southern Cone.

Among other positions in his 45-year career, Mr. Harriman headed the international divi­sion for Pan American Bank for five years before becoming president of Schroders Edge Act subsidiary, where he was responsible for wealth manage­ment business for Latin America. Over 30 years ago, Mr. Harriman came to Miami as vice president and general manager of Bankers Trust.

He said he’s enjoyed seeing the growth of the international banking industry for 38 years. “Today, however, the industry is facing many challenges in the regulatory environment, and FIBA serves as an important collective voice among local, national and international regu­lators, policymakers and stakeholders to address the impor­tant issues facing international banking.”

To that end, Mr. Harriman said, FIBA holds four to five conferences a year with indus­try leaders, including a major one on anti-money laundering attended by some 1,400 people from around the globe. Other conferences are on foreign trade, wealth management, bank security and technology.

Additionally, Mr. Harriman said, the non-profit trade asso­ciation offers online and in-per­son training for international bankers on topics including compliance, international trade, correspondent banking and wealth management, and part­ners with FIU in its certification programs.

FIBA members can join a number of committees that Mr. Harriman said are quite active, including Anti Money Launder­ing, Legal & Regulatory Af­fairs, Women’s Leadership, Trade Finance, Wealth Management, Asian Markets, Treasury & Liquidity Management, Corn­munity Relations, Innovation, Operations & Technology and Education & Training.

When he thinks of the quali­ties a banker needs to be suc­cessful, Mr. Harriman said —apart from the essential techni­cal skills — a good banker must be ethical, experienced and have common sense.

According to Ernie Diaz, re­gional president for TD Bank in Florida, banking leaders are well informed and work as hard —even harder — than their em­ployees. “You might be having a bad day but, if you’re a leader, you don’t let on,” Mr. Diaz said. “The best leaders don’t even think about it.”

Gene Schaefer, president of Bank of America for the Miami market, has those traits, he said. “Gene is comfortable with him­self and inspires his workers,” Mr. Diaz said, when he nomi­nated Mr. Schaefer as a bank­ing leader most respected by his peers. “He creates a culture of team work.”

Mr. Schaefer is doing an ex­cellent job at the Bank of America, Mr. Diaz said, and is also active in the community, including his role as incoming chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and board member for Enterprise Florida, the United Way of Mi­ami-Dade and the American Red Cross.

“He’s always willing to help —just a great human being,” Mr. Diaz said. “He’s at the top of the mountain [as a banker] and didn’t get there by accident. You have to work at it to be in a position like Gene’s.”

A leader in the banking indus-try has to be willing to listen, Mr. Diaz said. “So many things go on with a large staff and a leader has to be uniform. Those who are successful don’t have variability in their mood.”

Mr. Schaefer, who also co-heads the southeast region for global commercial banking for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said he was always interested in finance and investing, even as he worked his way through the University of Miami in the retail sector. “When banks recruited on campus, it piqued my interest,” he said. “It really com¬bines finance, problem-solving and client service all in one.”

Over his 25-plus-year career in financial services, Mr. Schaefer said he’s seen first¬hand the role that the financial sector plays in creating a sus¬tainable, long-run thriving economy. “Plus, I enjoy work-ing with people, understanding the needs of our clients and helping to make their financial lives better.”

Mr. Schaefer said he also enjoys being involved in the community. “As the Miami president, I get the opportunity to learn about our community’s needs, the work of our non¬profit sector decked against those needs and opportunities for collaboration where we aim to achieve,” he said. “Ulti-mately, I see myself, Bank of America and all my teammates as stakeholders in the success of our community.

Miami is at a critical point in its evolution, Mr. Schaefer said, and “there is no place more exciting in terms of potential for growth.” An educated workforce is at the core of a sustainable, economically vibrant community, he said, so his hope is “that we will con-tinue to make strides in developing talent to meet the current and future needs of our business community, across sectors.”

Mr. Schaefer said he hopes we will continue to “be nimble in supporting emerging industries and continue to improve our infrastructure, thereby remaining an attractive choice for business.”

Also cited were Luis de la Aguilera, CEO of US Century Bank, for growing former employer TotalBank into a “local powerhouse over a 15-year time period,” and in his first six months at US Century is “al-ready turning around this bank that historically has had growing pains;” Frank Robleta, CEO, president and director of BAC Florida Bank, for “successfully turning the bank around after going through a difficult period, who is also innovative in finding ways to attract new sources of business and, therefore, expanding the relevance of this Miami-based bank;” and Jorge Salas, CEO and president of Banesco USA, who is a “relative newcomer to South Florida but has quickly adapted himself to the local regulatory and business environment, and has helped increase the profitability and visibility of Banesco USA