InterviewInterview with Founder and President, Checkpoint Capital – Jon Virostek

FTB News Desk FTB News DeskJuly 15, 202016 min
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Jon Virostek Founder and President, Checkpoint Capital

Mr Virostek brings 25 years of industry experience to his new endeavor, Checkpoint Capital. He began his career in 1994 at the Baker Group and went on to serve as a managing director at Stifel Financial Corp., Cantor Fitzgerald, and Brean Capital before launching Checkpoint Capital.

1. Can you tell us about your role at Checkpoint Capital?
As Founder/President, I established Checkpoint Capital in 2018. Our offerings are directed towards the community banking sector, and include fixed-income trading, bond portfolio accounting, strategic planning, asset liability management, enterprise risk assessment and board education and training. Our resources level the playing field with large institutions and empower community banks and credit unions to lower costs, increase efficiencies and better manage risk.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
My career began on Wall Street, which eventually led to managing director roles at Brean Capital LLC, Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., and Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Inc. Those roles brought me a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing Main Street bankers and businesses. Eventually I realized the need for digital transformation in the community banking sector. I developed a passion for leveling the playing field for community banks and credit unions in the investment arena, by providing the type of investment opportunities that large banks utilize. We empower community banks and credit unions by providing transparent pricing and cutting-edge technology in the portfolio management process.

3. How do you think technology is upgrading in the Community banking sector?
Community banks have been slow to adopt new technologies because of the capital costs associated with investing in digital transformation initiatives. But we view this as an opportunity. Because community banks usually do not have much legacy technology or infrastructure to deal with, we can hit the ground running as their partner in the portfolio management process. We can fast forward to the present, get them up-to-speed and help them plan for a successful future.

4. How has the implementation of technology brought advancements to transparent pricing?
We give buyers the choice to know their costs with speed and precision thanks to digitization. Community banks and credit unions have been making multi-million-dollar decisions with no guidance on price for decades. There is a reason larger banks dedicate vast resources to the investment process. Expensive technologies have aided the larger bank buyers to substantially lower their portfolio transaction costs and conduct transactions at warp speed. However, these resources are expensive to implement for most community banks and credit unions. In my view, it is crucial that bankers know the cost of a transaction prior to purchase. Its basic common sense. There should be no surprises when the cost of a transaction shows up in the margin.

5. How do you think digitization has benefitted the portfolio management processes?
There are a vast number of analytical tools available today because of digitization, which has transformed the portfolio management process. But to be successful, you have to keep a close eye on investments and stay current in the market, know how to choose–and use–the right tools, and have the context and understanding to implement them correctly. If all those elements are in place, you can make very smart trades unimaginable a decade ago. Conversely, someone can do great damage to a portfolio in an instant if they do not understand the tools. For all the advantages of digitization, the portfolio management process still requires human expertise. Community banks do not have the staff or resources to compete, so we work as their partner in the process. Prior to digitization, comparative bond pricing in the institutional market was not possible. Now it is possible for community banks and credit unions to slash costs on investments to improve profitability.

6. How do your solutions stand out in the crowded field of fixed-income trading desks?
Checkpoint Capital is the first and only firm that we know of willing to provide fixed income transparency pricing to community banks and credit unions. As such, we are considered an industry “disruptor” in the institutional fixed income space, because we bring large buyer technology and sophistication to the community bank portfolio process. The bond market has been one of the last areas of financial services to undergo significant digital transformation. Not only is fixed income transparency pricing a positive in and of itself, we also provide portfolio managers with support in their related fiduciary roles, which is another distinguishing factor. It is important for CFOs and Portfolio Managers to demonstrate the utilization of industry best practices–such as obtaining best prices–to their boards and shareholders, especially because of the impact on a bank’s balance sheet. Every basis point counts.

7. What advice would you like to give to the technology Start Ups?
I’m a big fan of golf and love to play, so my advice is to stay the course.

Play to your strengths, minimize weaknesses, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

I sometimes like to quote the classic line from golfing great Bobby Jones, “Golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course… the space between your ears.”

8. Which Startup technology has grabbed your attention?
I’m very pleased to partner with RiskSpan and Empyrean Solutions.

9. What major developments you are planning for the future?
Community banks and credit unions play a vital role in our nation’s economy, so we are developing tools to provide additional insights for critical decision-making support during the Covid-19 pandemic. Institutions that focus on the balance sheet to reduce margin risk and obtain rewards wherever possible will be better positioned to weather the fallout from the pandemic We will continue to guide and support bankers in creating and maintaining strong balance sheets, and in doing so, aim to stimulate healthy, vibrant growth in their local and regional communities.

10. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
Our CEO Billy Weber has a strong track record and tremendous credibility in the financial services industry. When you have a guy that was with the FDIC’s division of resolutions and capital markets, you get more than talent; you get experience and relationship. We recently onboarded three additional top-notch investment pros with financial, operational, information technology and risk management experience to manage our client relationships.

11. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
I use Linkedin for networking and the O365 suite of services for day-to-day business operations, and monitor industry developments via American Banker, Bloomberg, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal apps, among others. Oftentimes I use multiple video apps such as GoToMeeting and Zoom depending on a client’s platform preference. I like AdobeScan, What’s App for communicating with family and friends, and ESPN to check sports scores when games resume.

FTB News Desk

FTB News Desk

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