'My jackets are older than most of the people in my industry'

Stanley Hollander, founder and chairman of Global Net Financial
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The Independent Online

1 What single event or person in life gave you the impetus to succeed? My father died when I was 21, which meant I had to take over his electronics company. The insecurity of not having family wealth, or a father to catch me when I fell, gave me the drive. I remember my father's business partner asking me to grow a moustache and wear a hat so I would look older. I didn't do either because they were probably two of the ugliest things that could happen to me. Instead, I learned one of my first lessons in business, which was to listen and anticipate.

1 What single event or person in life gave you the impetus to succeed? My father died when I was 21, which meant I had to take over his electronics company. The insecurity of not having family wealth, or a father to catch me when I fell, gave me the drive. I remember my father's business partner asking me to grow a moustache and wear a hat so I would look older. I didn't do either because they were probably two of the ugliest things that could happen to me. Instead, I learned one of my first lessons in business, which was to listen and anticipate.

2 How did you get involved in the internet?

I was sitting in my backyard of my house in Los Angeles one Sunday when my son-in-law visited from Chicago. He pulled out his laptop and started surfing the Net. At the time I was computer-illiterate and had no idea what this word "surfing" meant, outside the kind you do in the ocean.

He showed me various financial portals, The Motley Fool and The Street.Com, and I was hooked. I'd been thinking about winding up my company, International Capital Growth, which raised money for young companies because everything had gone big-cap in the US. Within a fortnight I'd raised $3m, hired two people from Microsoft and an information technology team and started GlobalNet. Within months we were recommended by Barrons as a quality financial portal that is here to stay.

3 Your industry is full of twenty-something millionaires. Do you ever feel too old?

I have jackets older than most of them. I feel challenged by young people and I feel a lot of them want to grow with me. A combination of youth and maturity is great. Some of the finest companies on the Net are a mixture of experience and youthful aggressiveness.

4 You've been a frequent Concorde user over the last two years. Will you continue to fly Concorde in light of the recent disaster?

I was put off flying Concorde four days before the crash when I heard about cracks in the wings, I thought, "Jesus this is a 25-year-old aircraft maybe I shouldn't be flying in it." BA have basically cannibalised their fleet to keep Concorde going. The crash just magnified my decision to stop, which is a shame because it was a great aircraft.

5 Are you easy to work for and is there anything that makes you lose your temper?

I'm a very obsessive person. I read my horoscope every day and have a Buddha in my bathroom, which I rub 63 times - exactly my age. I'm also an emotional person so I don't know whether that makes me easy to work for, or not. I re-explain myself and sometimes this can look like I'm putting pressure on people. I lose my temper when people don't manage to keep their word.

6 What was the most difficult aspect of setting up GlobalNet?

The most difficult part was Europe, because Americans don't understand the Continent is made up of a series of autonomous countries, unlike the States. Every country in Europe has a different security and exchange commission. From renting a building, to hiring employees, it's all a different culture. We managed to build nine sites in nine countries in just seven months, which took some doing.

7 What's the best investment you've ever made and the worst one?

Marrying my wife Gail, 41 years ago. We're an anomaly in California. My worst investments have always been people investments because people have a tendency to disappoint. One of the biggest problems with the internet is going to be human resources. It's very difficult to find the right people to put your faith in.

8 When you became an "internet nut" at an age when most people are thinking about retiring, didn't your wife complain?

My wife says nothing except, "Go do what you want to do." We've been partners on everything and she knows when I'm doing something uniquely different, I'm happy. She also knows that Stanley Hollander reinvents himself. I came from boring appliances and electronics, then went into the brokerage business. The internet is my last hurrah and I believe it's going to be very successful. We're not going to be one of the dot.coms that disappears off the face of the earth.

9 Why is the internet different from other businesses?

Other businesses are mundane in that you own a product and you market it in a standard way. The internet is changing so fast that what is good today will become something different tomorrow, particularly when the pipe widens and we get broadband. If you're not on it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, watching everything and moving with it, you'll lose, because the world and his wife are trying to duplicate what you're doing. The internet feeds on obsessiveness, which isn't always positive in other businesses.

10 Ninety per cent of internet companies are doomed. Do you agree with that?

I don't think that's true, but then I don't know what the 10 per cent will represent. Maybe they'll be the best of the best and maybe that 10 per cent buys 30 per cent so the statistic will be 40 per cent. I think a large percentage will consolidate to find cost savings, but it doesn't mean they're doomed. In any new industry there are always casualties, consolidations and marriages. The window out there, is not a crisis window, it's a window of opportunity.

11 Do you think the sector is still over-valued?

I can't agree about valuations because the institutions went out and bought at any price.I think statistically they'll come out ahead. I'm not looking in the short term. The Net is only about three to four years old in the UK. I was in the broking business for 15 years so I know there is excess and exuberance at the start of anything. If you look at television, I can give you station names and manufacturers that don't exist today because they either couldn't stay up with the speed, or they got ate up by the bigger player, or they ran out of money. Brokerage companies create excitement and people love that excitement. Whether that's prudent, I don't know, but it's helped capitalise some very good companies.

12 Why do you think the future of financial services is going to be on the internet?

Because it's one of the products that is going to stick around. People need insurance and banking and they have to beat inflation. If interest rates are at 5 per cent, you won't be able to match the cost of living by keeping your money in the bank. In the US 60 per cent of the population now own stocks. Your home used to be your castle and your retirement but it's not anymore, it's about having an equity portfolio. People are more knowledgeable and want to make their own financial decisions. The internet feeds off that desire for total control.

13 Are the British and Americans very different at doing business?

Sure they are. I used to think the British were slower, but that's not the case any more because the world has shrunk and communication has become more efficient. I think the UK person has much longer memory than US person, in that they only like to remember bad things, not the good things. You can't judge someone because they've failed at something. If people are talented they should be given another chance.

14 You work between an 18 to 20-hour day, so how do you unwind?

By watching Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, or Absolutely Fabulous. When it comes to humour, the English are the most gifted people who walked the face of the earth.

15 What was the happiest day of your working life and the worst?

Signing the Freeserve contract in January 1999 was one of the most exciting days because it showed they believed in us and we in them. The worst period was the start of my career, because it involved the death of my father.

16 What's the best piece of advice that anyone ever gave you?

I'm self-taught so I can't beat: "Go West, young man."

17 In terms of personal wealth how much is actually enough?

Accomplishment is what matters to me, not money so I don't have any particular figure.

18 If your briefcase was about to be confiscated, which three things would you want to retrieve?

My Palm Pilot, my phone and my notes, because I'm a note-taker.

19 Do you ever think about retiring from work?

I'm eternally a deal person. I love looking at complicated deals and trying to make them simple. It doesn't mean they all work but it's a great challenge. I would die if I ever stopped working.

20If you went bankrupt tomorrow would you start again?

Yes, without a blink of the eye.

* Interview by Fiona Lafferty

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