Patrick Howell, founder of the San Diego Investment Conference, talks with the Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone about what inspires his work, his hopes for America and his thoughts on the 2012 doomsday theory.
Patrick Howell’s inspiration for forming the San Diego Investment Conference (SDIC) was threefold: the radical decline of the U.S. and world markets at the dawn of the 21st Century, a love of the “game” that is investment banking in small- to mid-cap commercial markets, and a promise he made as a child to his father that in the event of a great depression he would never allow himself to become depressed and that he could do anything he set his mind to.
“I am one of the youngest guys in the conference series that is dominated by gentlemen who look absolutely nothing like me and who have different backgrounds,” he chuckles. “I have always been smart enough to be a good listener and I have been fortunate to have some very good mentors.” One such mentor is Gary E. Bryant, president of Newport Capital Consultants, whom Howell credits with teaching him the ins and outs of the capital markets and the investor relations business throughout Southern California. Howell previously worked nearly 15 years in financial markets from Market Street, San Francisco to Southern California (Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego) to Wall Street in global and Fortune 500 companies as Wells Fargo, BNP Paribus, RR Donnelley Financial and Fleet Boston Financial (Bank of America) in capacities as varied as entrepreneur, financial advisor, branch manager and business banker.
(Picture on right: Patrick A. Howell and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villariagos at a non-for-profit event (circa 2010)
Patrick: We have had 11 conferences that we either co-sponsored or held ourselves—in La Jolla, Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, Miami, Dallas and New York City. Next year we will host anywhere from 12 to 18 events and we are going to spread out into Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago and conduct a new event in New York City called American Prosperity and Jobs.
Opportunist: What do you aim to achieve with your conferences?
Patrick: I create exposure and funding opportunities with my conferences. I have been extraordinarily disappointed in the large banking institutions. What they’ve done in this economic environment is horrible. They got their bailout and they are sitting on their reserves. In the short term that may have been fine but the American people will not forget because they refuse to extend their hand to small businesses. Now that work is left up to community banks and conferences such as mine. That’s why I do what I do. Main Street is the front line. We are creating marketplaces, literally, where the companies are coming in looking for capital in exchange for a percentage of their company. We have already created a funding pipeline of nearly $100 million for 60 companies and about 40-50 percent of our companies have had funding events.
Opportunist: We understand the SDIC is a family affair.
Patrick: Yes. My wife, Hanna Wagari, and my son, Christian, have both worked with me in this conference series.
Opportunist: What are their roles?
Patrick: Hanna is Director of Finance and Operations. She has a great business mind and is marketing director at a biotech company in San Diego. She’s also a nutritionist, so she makes sure we eat healthy. Christian is only five years old but he is Co-Chairman of the Board.
Opportunist: No kidding?
Patrick: Yes. People see my son and say, “Oh he’s so cute” [Laughs] but he’s really chairman of the board and he has an equity stake in the company. They don’t realize that he is really calling the shots. And I listen to what he tells me.
Opportunist: What does he tell you?
Patrick: If he says you’re out, you’re out. Sometimes, when I’m at my wit’s end with somebody—greed runs rampant in the financial industry, you know—I’ll say something like “that guy is just motivated by self-interest and he’s driving me crazy” and Christian will say, “Daddy, just be patient and love him.” A lot of people are dismissive of children but they have tremendous wisdom if you’re willing to listen.
When he wakes up in the morning, he’ll ask, “Daddy am I still chairman?” So we go to the website and I show him his photo and little bio and he says, “Good. I just wanted to make sure.”
Opportunist: Who inspired you to get where you are today?
Patrick: Honestly, it’s been pretty organic. I am lucky to have had substantial lifelong relationships that are mutually beneficial. My parents have been an extraordinary source of inspiration—by example and as motivators. All five of my siblings and I are following our dreams and our passions with certain dedication and certain integrity. When that happens—six out of six—it wasn’t by accident. My father was a political science professor at a community college in Sacramento and he co-founded the alternative to western civilization program at Stanford. My mother does everything with a heart of integrity and works to help people. What I do in a business sense is translate helping people to really serving my clients. Outside my family, the mentorship of Gary Bryant gave me tremendous passion for the capital markets and to be a master at what I do. Ben Doherty taught me the art of storytelling and showmanship. All of the great leaders have the ability to tell a story.
Opportunist: Who is the most impressive person you have met in the course of your work?
Patrick: On a broad level, I was really honored to meet with the President of the United States when he was just a senator back in 2008. He challenged the nation to be the change they wanted to see and that’s a huge part of the inspiration I found to do what I’m doing right now. Dr. Henry Samueli, of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine. My good friend Abdi Ahmed, CTO of NetServe Systems, introduced me to Mr. Samueli. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was introduced to me by my pastor, Mark Whitlock of COR AME. And my many other mentors including, Michael Miramontes, Gary Bryant and Leslie Brown, sister of the late Ron Brown, former Secretary of Commerce.
(Picture on left:Barack Obama, Hanna Wagari and Patrick A. Howell at the Balboa Bay Club in 2008)
Opportunist: What are your thoughts on the current state of America?
Patrick: It’s been a difficult three years. We are lucky we didn’t slide off the abyss into nothingness. We have come close to that precipice. Everyone is so busy condemning Washington, D.C., and blaming the leadership—President Obama, Congress, etc.—but they need to look in the mirror and take personal responsibility for themselves. I believe the entire country would change overnight if every American would wake up and, in the course of one calendar month, take responsibility for what they did and the role they played in this situation.
Opportunist: Are you for or against Occupy Wall Street?
Patrick: I applaud the movement; it’s the voice of the American people rising up to hold the 1% accountable. Whoever our leaders turn out to be in 2012, they will have a mandate from the American people in the form of Occupy Wall Street. I believe there’s a good Wall Street and then there’s the 1%. I believe I represent the good part, through small businesses and job creation.
More specific to our industry, Dodd–Frank [Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act] really dominated the last three years. The U.S. House of Representatives just passed HR 2930. Sponsored by Republican Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, The Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act is bipartisan and has the strong endorsement of the White House. It could do the same that the 504C bill did during the Reagan Administration by paving the way for the largest peacetime economic expansion in American history, during the Clinton Administration. Also known as crowdfunding, its express purpose is to, and I quote, “Amend the securities law to provide for registration exemptions for certain crowdfunding securities and other purposes.”
Opportunist: What exactly does that mean for small businesses?
(Picture on right: Patrick A. Howell with Gary E. Bryant in Newport Coast (circa 2010)
Patrick: Basically, HR 2930 is indicative of a sea change of attitude where we are opening up the flow of capital in the markets to create job growth. I strongly encourage everyone to contact their representatives in Washington and implore them to pass this.
I believe America is going to become more powerful and a force for true good in the world. With the election in 2008 we fulfilled our promise, and by the time we get to 2012 the pendulum will swing back. America is a citadel for global capitalism and democracy. We are still a society of ideas and we exemplify the very best that the world has to offer.
Opportunist: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Patrick: Continuing to work inside the financial sector to create jobs. Working in the private sector for the revitalization of Africa just as Bob Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Bill Gates, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have done in recent world history is also one of my goals.
(Picture on left: Patrick A. Howell at the 100 Black Men of Orange Country Annual gala (with students of the Passport program whom he mentored in 2005)
I want all my mentors, my family and the people with whom I work to be proud of me, and I hope to become one of the wealthiest men in the nation—not just financially but also spiritually, intellectually, experientially and physically because wealth is more than monetary. We have already begun building a banking presence and creating a parent company to our national conference series. American Prosperity and Jobs Inc., will be a full-service investment relations and consultancy firm. We are working with Aaron Golembiewski, an attorney in New York City, and consulting George Patriot Seymour of Patriot Strategies to expand our brand nationally. Most of all, I want to see America fulfill her promise and see her stronger than ever. I am looking forward to seeing some great things in 2012.
Opportunist: So you don’t think the world will end in 2012?
Patrick: Well, maybe it will be the end of some old systems. It’s time for global shifts and individual transformations where we leave old guises behind. It’s about new systems based upon true wealth paradigms instead of doing things just for money. There’s no point in having $15 million in a bank account if you don’t put it to good use. So maybe 2012 will be the end of the world, as we know it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. [Laughs]
Visit the San Diego Investment Conference
2012 series commences January 17th and 18th in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides in the Orlando area.