Banking: Miami’s Apollo Bank continues to prove Eddy Arriola’s dream was no chimera

Banking: Miami's Apollo Bank continues to prove Eddy Arriola's dream was no chimera

Eddy Arriola, Founder and CEO of Apollo Bank

  In 2015, Apollo Bank reached $500 million in total assets, made Florida Trend’s “Best Companies to Work for in Florida“ list, and became one of the state’s 25 largest financial institutions

—by Rebeca C. Trujillo, Editor; Miami Empresarial Magazine

The year was 2010 and the U.S. economy was in the midst of the most widespread and damaging economic melt-down since the Great Depression of the 1930s. South Florida was hit on all fronts, but the most devastating blow fell on its bomming construction and real estate industry, with the ripple effects shaking all related services, including the financial sector, to the core.

For Eddy Arriola, it was the ideal time to venture into banking. A Harvard Business School graduate and successful entrepreneur who had co-founded Inktel Direct, a firm specializing in direct contact telemarketing, with brother Ricky in 1997, Arriola had been bitten by the banking bug while serving on TotalBank’s board of directors. “So here I was trying to start a bank during the financial crisis and everyone said ‘You’re crazy!’,” he laughs, as he explains that the future for banking, especially community banks, was bleak. “Banks were closing. I’d never worked at a bank and didn’t have a banking background. [But it was] something that I wanted to do personally.” “Banks were being bought out or closed…

“Our money isn’t any greener or any shinier than any other bank so we have to differentiate ourselves on service. We define services as helping our clients bank the way they want to bank.”

The Lobby of Apollo Bank at Brickell Headquarters

However, we saw that there was an opportunity; that people still cared about being in the community and understanding who you’re dealing with. They cared about local service and being able to operate more quickly.” Arriola’s plans and months of travel, consultations and research confirmed the need for a community bank model.

Eddy Arriola with brother Ricky Arriola, CEO of Inktel and Miami Beach Commissioner 

“So we put together [a group of] investors and a management team. We bought a little bank; we turned it around and have been building it up since then.” Every aspect of Apollo Bank’s history seems to have a unique tale behind it. And Arriola enjoys telling them.

“Most community banks in the US “have zero growth; no new business is forming, no new growth or negative growth. But Miami is exploding and will continue to.”

What’s behind the ‘apollo’ name?

“As I went around the country and spoke to different people that had created banks, I was working with an attorney in Texas, a guy named Chet Fenimore, who had started many banks. He is one of the —if not the top— top bank attorneys in the entire country. He worked with me for three months, for free, thought it was a good idea, and we hit it off. So after three months I called him and said ‘Hey, Chet, I’m going to move forward. You’re in Austin, Texas, and you’re going to be my attorney.’ And he says: ‘That’s great! What are you going to name the bank?’” Arriola replied that he hadn’t thought about it yet. “So he goes: ‘I’ve worked with you so long and I haven’t sent you a bill. Starting Monday, I’m going to send you a bill, so you better figure out the name of the entity.’” After thinking about it all weekend, Eddy Arriola had the perfect name for the new bank.  “I’ve always been motivated by the Apollo mission to the moon.

“A big plus is that Miami is doing phenomenally well…”

When you get a bunch of smart people focused on a common goal, you can do anything. This is kind of my Apollo mission. I tell people about the mission of the bank and where we’re going, and they say ‘I like that story!”‘

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Building ‘a great bank and an admirable company’

Since day one, Eddy Arriola’s prime directive has been to build a robust, financially sound institution that’s equipped to meet the community’s needs. He recruited seasoned bankers like Richard H. Dailey, Apollo’s president, whose international banking background, fluency in Spanish, and intimate knowledge of the South Florida and Latin America markets has proven invaluable to the bank’s development.

“We saw that there was an opportunity, that people still care about being in the community and understanding who you’re dealing with, about local service and being able to operate more quickly.”

Backed by a board of directors that includes a varied group of successful Miami professionals, including William “Bill” Heffernan, former president and CEO of TotalBank, Dailey and Arriola lead a team that enacts the founder’s vision in Apollo’s branches, strategically located in Brickell, Coral Gables, Doral, Downtown, Hialeah, and Westchester. “Our money isn’t any greener or any shinier than any other bank, so we have to differentiate ourselves on service. We define ‘services’ as helping our clients bank the way they want to bank.

While it is not an international bank in the traditional sense, Arriola says, “we’re in Miami, the unofficial capital of Latin America. It’s very hard to be a community bank in Miami and not service the community, which is very much international.”

We do so by investing in technology, investing in people, in service, in turnaround time. We offer a lot of products and services, but not all the products and services. We focus on the small professional, small to mid-size businesses, family-owned businesses, entrepreneurs.” While it is not an international bank in the traditional sense, Arriola says, “we’re in Miami, the unofficial capital of Latin America. It’s very hard to be a community bank in Miami and not service the community, which is very much international.”

In the summer of 2015, it was chosen as a preferred lender for Midtown Doral —a luxury real estate development featuring 509 residential units and 72,000 square feet of commercial space. 

The bank’s rapid growth is not only fueled by its expanding —and satisfied— client base, but through other tactical moves. In August, 2014, federal regulators approved Apollo Bank’s acquisition of embattled First Bank of Miami, almost doubling Apollo’s size and market share, and making it one of Florida’s 25 largest financial institutions.

“We want people who are still building their businesses. We have people who are using our drive through or coming into the branch that are wearing jeans and work clothes, or are the employees of the business or business owners who are working.”

The bank has also established business alliances which, again, further expand its reach and ability to serve the South Florida community. In the summer of 2015, it was chosen by Century Homebuilders as a preferred lender for its Mid-town Doral —a luxury real estate development in the heart of the City of Doral, featuring 509 residential units and 72,000 square feet of commercial space.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebeca Sebastian UMRebeca C.Trujillo, Co-Founder/Editor of MIAMI EMPRESARIAL Magazine, brings her unique insights of Miami, its business dynamics and people to every article. She is best known for her in-depth stories of the area’s economic development and her interviews with prominent entrepreneurs and business and community leaders; among them: developers Jorge M. Perez (Related Group), Alan Ojeda (Rilea), Tibor Hollo (Florida East Coast Realty) and Alberto Muñoz (EspacioUSA); banker Jorge Rossell (TotalBank), and Lauro Bravar (OHL-USA); and Miamian and national TV star Danny Pino.

A publishing, marketing, advertising and public relations professional with three decades’ experience, she began as a feature writer for BUENHOGAR, the Spanish-language sister publication of GOODHOUSEKEEPING, where she honed her interviewing skills with designers Oscar de la Renta and Pierre Cardin, Olympic Gold Medalist Peggy Fleming, actor/director José Ferrer and other personalities, and as a freelance writer for local publications like GUIA-The Magazine of the Americas, MiamiAffaire, and others.

Prior to launching Miami Empresarial, Rebeca was editor of PROYECTO, the magazine of the Latin Builders Association (LBA), for seven years. There she spearheaded the team in charge of revamping the publication onto editorial, organizational and financial success. While at Proyecto, she wrote numerous articles about the construction and real estate industries, including articles on the sectors’ top issues and professionals, as well as special interviews with philanthropist and business leader Adrienne Arsht and banker Adolfo Henriques, among others. She also served as editor for Miami-Dade County’s THE ART OF THE SISTER CITIES annual publication for three years.

Rebeca C. Trujillo is Co-Founder and Vice President of Conceptual Advertising, Inc. She may be contacted via e-mail at rebeca@miamiempresarial.net and by phone at 786.512.0793 / www.miamiempresarial.net

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