Miami Laker Profile: Carlos Fernandez Guzman

Wednesday, May 2, 2018 0 Comments

Miami Laker Profile: Carlos Fernandez Guzman

 

Long before he became President and CEO of Pacific National Bank, Carlos Fernandez Guzman had his sights set on a law degree and worked at a bank to earn the money for law school.

But after he learned how to convert a small amount of cash into a gold mine, law school became a distant memory.

“When someone explained to me that I can take this and turn it into this, I redirected my focus to finance,” Fernandez Guzman said at his office on Brickell Avenue. “Accounting was good but finance is a good fit.”

The longtime Miami Lakes resident is the white knight of struggling financial institutions which, among his other accomplishments, recently earned him a place in Miami Dade College Alumni Hall of Fame.    

The enshrinement ceremony took place on April 3 at Hilton Miami Downtown.

Fernandez Guzman said the honor was so special since his family was there and accepted the award from a man who he venerates as a self-made man, MDC president Eduardo Padron.

“I think so highly of Padron,” he said. “He’s a dear friend and it was so special to me to receive the award from him. I am truly humbled and honored.”

Fernandez Guzman attended Miami-Dade College after he graduated from Belen Jesuit Preparatory.

His father died when he was a teenager and decided to stay home closer to his mother instead of enrolling in a college out of town.

“Miami Dade College is your first step to success,” he said.

While studying marketing and finance at Florida International University, Fernandez Guzman worked as a national and correspondent accounts manager at Southeast Bank.

He later worked for Consolidated Banks for 10 years but left the banking industry for a while since he no longer was able to build a strong relationship with his clients, which paled in comparison to the commodity portion of the banking business. 

After helping companies that were struggling financially, Fernandez Guzman accepted a proposal to retool American Savings and kept it from insolvency.

Instead of staying on board, he returned to his own business but later embraced an offer to rebuild Bank United, which he said the government blamed for the 2008 economic meltdown.

According to published reports in 2009, BankUnited was a high-profile casualty of the banking crisis, its problems stemmed largely from its forays into risky housing loans. The bank specialized in an exotic type of mortgage made to people living outside the U.S. who wanted to buy property in Florida. 

But Fernandez Guzman said Bank United was not at fault and pointed to its mark as once again the most profitable bank in the state of Florida.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Miami Lakes-based bank reported a profit in the first quarter in 2017 of $66.2 million, moving ahead of St. Petersburg-based Raymond James Bank, which had been the most profitable bank in Florida for the previous two quarters.

“We got blamed for something we didn’t do,” he said. 

Despite the success of Bank United, two banks turned him down for their President and CEO positions because of the blame for causing the economic crisis.  

So, since Fernandez Guzman has a knack for rebuilding companies and banks, he asked for a financial institution that was in the worst possible shape, Pacific National Bank. 

“I wanted a bank that the government was angry at, and a bank many thought that couldn’t be saved,” he said. “In 2010, I got Pacific National Bank back on its feet.” 

The private commercial bank was acquired by four Greenwich, Connecticut in 2014, and expanded for the first time since it started over 30 years ago to Coral Gables, Pinecrest and Aventura. 

At one point, Pacific National Bank was ranked 23rd in terms of assets among South Florida-based banks with a reported $378.9 million. 

Fernandez Guzman said he’s passionate about his job and he loves to help people accomplish their dreams.

“You get to help a lot of people make their dreams come true like buying a home or borrowing money for college,” he said. “If you’re not passionate about doing your job, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

But his biggest award extends beyond his banking office. 

As chairman of the Chapman Partnership in conjunction with the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, Fernandez Guzman helps less fortunate people bounce back on their own feet.  

The organization focuses on empowering the homeless to achieve self sufficiency and independent living.

He said the organization uses one percent of taxes to invest in the well being of homeless people, the only county in America that does so.

Fernandez Guzman said the program is the most successful in the United States.

“We have at least a 60 percent life time ratio,” he said. “It’s so much rewarding to be able to see people in the streets remake themselves, living in homes, have jobs and raising families. To see kids become honor students and have plans for college, they are growing up to be successful. When I put my head on my pillow at night, I thank God for the Chapman Partnership.” 

Miami Lakes has been Fernandez Guzman and his family’s home for more than 30 years.

He and his wife raised their three children here, and he was president of the Miami Lakes Optimist Club where they played sports.

Fernandez Guzman remembers the cow pastures and watched Miami Lakes become a full-fledged city.

“It’s like watching a child grow,” he said. “We have the best parks and good families and friends. The Grahams did a fantastic job with the community and it is unparalleled to any other city.”

He was asked to move to Coral Gables on many occasions but refused.

“My kids live here and so does my mother,” he said. “We love Miami Lakes.”



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