Gustavo “Gus” Cobeaga has been to places in Iraq most people have only read about: Fallujah, Ramadi and Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein.
As an artillery officer, Cobeaga was deployed to Iraq twice after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2003, earning a bronze star for his military service.
Today, Cobeaga has an entirely different mission: He’s the Naples area president for Regions Bank, overseeing 11 branches with total loans and deposits of $750 million.
Cobeaga, a Naples native, joined Regions during the financial crisis in 2008. “Some would say I left one war for another,” he chuckles.
But his military experience helps him put things in perspective. “Even on the challenging days, you can say you’re going back to a warm meal and a comfortable bed,” Cobeaga says.
Although he started his banking career in the wealth management department of Regions Bank, he preferred the front-line retail banking operations. Cobeaga is humble: “I was recruited to banking for leadership, not necessarily financial acumen,” he says.
Cobeaga quickly rose through the ranks, rising from managing a single branch in Pinellas County to running a cluster of branches in Tampa and Lakeland. In November 2013, he was named city president of Naples, a place much bigger than when he left for West Point more than a decade earlier.
“You never thought Naples would be a place where you’d build your career,” Cobeaga says. “But things have changed.”
City of residence: Naples
Marital status/children: Not married, no children
Alma mater: United States Military Academy at West Point
Best place to network: Community is very important to me and in the great city of Naples there is not one specific civic organization, place or group, in my opinion, for us to meet people of better character, experience or interest. Every chance to interact while out and about in the city creates an opportunity to start new relationships.
Coolest business experience: Recently our organization was able to take a major role in partnering with the dental community in support of Mission of Mercy. We spent the better part of a full weekend at the Tampa Bay fairgrounds where thousands of volunteers, including dentists and medical staff, provided free care for underprivileged, uninsured, and in some case homeless individuals with major dental needs. I should also add that being nominated to Business Observer’s 40 under 40 is right up there as a cool experience too!
The most important business lesson I’ve learned: No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
One website that makes your job easier: Regions.com
One community group you’re most involved with: Professionally, I am new to Naples, coming back less than a year ago. That being said I have taken my time exploring various groups and focusing a lot of my time internally on my banking team. Looking forward I have been selected as a member of the 2015 Leadership of Collier class. I am confident that this opportunity to peek behind the curtains will give me the best insight of where to commit my time and leadership in the community.
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: I’ll trade two people to just have a chance to have dinner with my father again. We lost him far too early and he was as stand up as they come.
Favorite off-hours activity: I’m an outdoors guy so pretty much anything under the sun goes, but I would list golf, boating towards the top of this list.
Best award you ever received: The Bronze Star
What new skill would you like to learn: I’d like to learn how to surf. My friends and family would tell me I need to learn how to sing.
Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: If we define adventurous as a bold, usually risky undertaking then the first thing that comes to mind would be a number of adventures from my time spent as an artillery officer in the Army. Rappelling from cliff faces, fast-roping from helicopters, sending ammunition that weighed about as much as me at that time downrange are just a few things that I recall getting my adrenaline going.
What’s at the top of your bucket list: Living in the moment is important to me and I’ve been fortunate in many ways to take advantage of life and these bucket list items as they have presented themselves. I would love to see a great white shark in nature, behind a steel cage of course.
Who would play you in a movie about your life: The Buzzfeed App on Facebook would tell me that my on screen personality most likely emulates Jason Statham. His characters are defined as bold, athletic, adventurous and quick thinking. I’ll take it!
If I had a magic wand I’d: Tough one. I deferred to advice from my 4-year-old niece. She says if I had a wand I would be a princess.