For September, we laud Frank Trotter, President of EverBank Direct, for a devotion to sensible banking practices that has helped EverBank slide unscathed — and with growth to boot — past the credit crisis … and for his commitment to cementing the word relationship in the lexicon of online banking.
Title: President, EverBank Direct (Assets: $6.02B)
Gonzo Title: The Prudent Man
Alma Mater: Frank received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from St. Olaf in Northfield, Minn., and his MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. Frank tells GonzoBanker he was drawn to the cold climes of Minnesota primarily for the hockey — but it was the great academics that got his parents on board.
From Chemistry to … Banking? It was the MBA that did it. Frank developed an interest in Finance studying for his MBA under “top level” banking and finance professors such as Jess Yawitz and Bill Marshall. “I was primarily considering consulting jobs (odd in retrospect since I had no serious experience) when I was introduced to Mark Twain Bank. After hearing and being recruited by Chairman Adam Aronson and President John Dubinsky I was sold on the opportunity.”
Previous Gigs: Before founding EverBank Direct, Frank served as Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Mercantile Bank Capital Markets, and Director of the International Markets Division at Mark Twain Bank, where he created the WorldCurrencyTM family of deposits and directed the global launch of eCashTM.
That Ol’ Black Magic. A former Mark Twain banker, Frank does nothing to dispel the perception that MT alumni tend to practice extreme entrepreneurialism — the kind that has resulted in many going on to create innovative, highly successful business ventures like EverBank Direct. Frank believes the correlation between Mark Twain bankers and start up success is that Mark Twain tended to select individuals with entrepreneurial leanings and because it developed in its employees a rational risk taking approach. “The [Mark Twain] culture was critical to fostering the kind of environment we value here at EverBank,” said Frank.
Melding the precepts of Mark Twain and other innovator organizations, Frank has helped fashion at EverBank a distinct business culture based on a philosophy of critical thinking. Many on the team have built a division or business line or product line from the ground up and the general directive to start the morning by asking, “How can I do it better?” comes naturally. Frank noted that EverBank employees tend to view their daily work, problem solving and customer relations in light of the question, “Why are we doing it this way?” The right answer, according to Frank, is “because it’s the best way to do it; not because ‘it’s the way we do it.’”
A Clear Vision. As EverBank’s founders – Frank, Rob Foregger, Vincent Amato and David Galland – assessed the banking environment in the late 1990s, they saw a bit of mess. Frank described the scene as, “Branches with long lines and a reputation (deserved or undeserved) for surliness, myriad fees and low rates for savers.” While Frank and his partners were not the only ones at that time seeking to harness the power of the Internet to bypass brick and mortar, they did have a differentiated end game — offering customers a private banking level of service and a high value proposition. Frank noted, “We wanted to create a relationship that our customers would value and that would cause them to cement a strong bond with the bank.”
The path toward this goal was multi-pronged: that is, offer a full line of services, practice cost containment with a thrifty approach and elimination of multiple pricing, and provide service excellence sufficient to transcend the barrier of anonymity common to Internet banking. As a result, EverBank has able to offer its customers the EverBank Yield PledgeSM, which states that Yield Pledge products will always have a yield among the top 5% of competitive accounts offered by leading banks. “Our customers don’t ever have to worry about EverBank not providing a fair return,” said Frank.
Want in on a Secret? EverBank’s market demographic is wide ranging, but it’s not uncommon for customers to view holding an account there as being part of an exclusive club. That feeling is fostered in part by the way EverBank strives to create a sense of partnership between itself and its clients. “We try to instill for our customers a culture that says, ‘You are part of an innovative enterprise that is looking out for you,’” said Frank. To that end, EverBank has found that face-to-face relationship building at events across the country is important to maintaining a bond. “Without a physical structure,” said Frank, “conferences, meetings and dinners become a kind of rolling branch. Looking someone in the eye is more informative than looking at a pile of statistics. We like to see the passion in people’s eyes.”
Going Mano a Mano with Mainstream Banking. Frank is convinced that while EverBank stands out from its online peers, the distinction is even clearer when it comes to mainstream banks. “Main Street is still touting free checking while paying little or no interest,” Frank observed. “We were amused by the recent advertisement from a major institution covering their checking product – instead of great rates or low fees or better service you can have a baseball team logo on your checks – talk about a great banking value! Guess you have to cover the cost of branches somehow.”
Big Bang Projects. Many of the projects that have Frank and his team charged up have a large impact on efficiency and customer experience. He noted that EverBank’s National Home Loan Group recently implemented a new Loan Officer Work Bench that was developed internally to streamline the process for loan officers to better assist customers in obtaining mortgages. On the global investing (and customer-facing) side, Frank said the team is energized by the launch of its Global Market Resources, where EverBank provides facts and analysis for currency markets around the world. “This puts all the information necessary for a customer to make an informed decision at their fingertips,” he said.
Advice for Fellow GonzoBankers. When assessing a project, Frank maintains a laser beam focus on customer impact alongside internal organizational benefits. “Without [the customer impact] element, the project ROI will not happen,” he asserted. Frank noted that, before a project is approved, an extensive checklist of customer conditions must be met; during and after project execution, how well these conditions are being met is constantly evaluated and adjustments are made as necessary.
Next on the List? As a noted innovator in the area of currency markets and direct to consumer banking, Frank has been responsible for many industry firsts. GonzoBanker asked him what’s next. “I’ll have to keep most of these under wraps but high on the list is providing investment and wealth management services in a direct environment. And as always, we’re looking at a lot of alternatives in the World Markets area.”
Chillin’. Frank plays ice hockey 3 to 4 times a week and has “added in some outdoor soccer to torture myself more.” Doing active stuff with the family is also a priority. Frank, his wife Carol, and his girls, Jessica (24) and Erica (21), will be in the Galapagos in December on a multi-sport tour of the island.
Fave Movie. Candidates include Blade Runner, The Man Who Would be King, Snatch and The Meaning of Life.
Feeding the iPod. “I’m not sure I can listen to all of what is there now,” commented Frank, “even on a flight to Australia.” New stuff includes Vertical Horizon, many things the kids load on when he’s not looking and a pretty complete Warren Zevon catalogue.
GonzoBanker is inspired by Frank’s commitment to creating a more perfect model for direct to consumer banking and is proud to donate $250 in Frank’s name to Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Center in St. Louis. A division of Grace Hill Settlement House, in operation in St. Louis for over 100 years, the health center’s goal is to help neighbors help neighbors. Frank’s mother was the medical director there for many years and Frank said, “We continue to believe in the mission.”Article written by Diana Ferguson