As commander of the Navy's Pacific Fleet, four-star Admiral Ronald J. Zlatoper supervised 200,000 military men and women stationed from San Diego to tiny islands in the Indian Ocean.
During Operation Desert Storm, he led the first cruise missile and aircraft attacks on Iraqi forces, personally flying an F-14 fighter jet over Baghdad.
Having retired from the military a few months ago, the 55-year-old warrior now is putting his leadership experience to use in the unlikeliest of places: a bank technology company.
Admiral Zlatoper, who asks that people call him "Zap," is the new chief executive officer of Sanchez Computer Associates Inc., a Malvern, Pa., maker of core banking software.
"With the world military confrontations somewhat subdued, it seemed like a very good opportunity," he said. "I wanted to do something that would let me get involved in the new information revolution, if you will."
Landing a top Navy officer was a surprise coup for Sanchez, and the company's principals (brothers Michael and Frank Sanchez) said the admiral is a good fit.
His 33 years of naval duty have given him leadership experience and high-level contacts in locales where Sanchez does business, including Canada, Central Europe, and the Asia-Pacific Rim.
"He's got an entrepreneur's spirit," said Michael A. Sanchez, president of the company, who forfeited his CEO title to make way for the admiral. "In the Navy, they've got to be able to go anywhere anytime and fight any battle-it's the same thing for us."
Approaching retirement age but feeling full of energy, Admiral Zlatoper said he and his wife, Barry, contemplated what he should do for a second career.
Various large corporations and defense contractors were offering posts and titles, but he decided instead to join a smaller firm, "to jump into something where I could have some impact."
He met the Sanchez brothers through another admiral who sat on the company's board of directors, and the personalities all clicked.
It didn't take long for the former Vietnam War fighter pilot-who jokes about what a treat it is for a career sailor to sit in an office with a window-to enlist with the developers of the "Profile/Anywhere" software platform.
"I am not a banker, and I am not a technologist," said Admiral Zlatoper (pronounced "ZLAT-upper"). "I tend to be an operational kind of person, but I have some strategic vision."
An affable man with an easy sense of humor, Admiral Zlatoper was described as "one of the finest officers I have associated with" by former secretary of defense Caspar W. Weinberger.
This month, he began his new assignment by paying a visit to the Bank of Bermuda.
To learn more about the business of banking, he plans to spend half a day watching what a teller does and another half-day shadowing a loan officer.
"I haven't done electronic banking in my last career, but the Internet is a very large part of what I have been doing," Admiral Zlatoper said.
"When you're stationed in Hawaii and you're responsible for folks in 12 time zones, E-mail is the best way to communicate."
There are other points of overlap between his old job and his new one, he said. For instance, while commanding 200 ships and submarines and 1,600 aircraft stationed in a 102 million-square-mile territory in the Pacific, Admiral Zlatoper oversaw installation of video teleconferencing and computing systems.
Restructuring the Navy's $5 billion operating budget for the Pacific Fleet in 1995 and 1996 helped hone his skills as a financial manager.
"He's really got quite a background, and I think it was a credit to the company that they were able to hire him," said Sheryl A. Daniels, a vice president at J.P. Morgan Securities who tracks Sanchez.
Admiral Zlatoper earned a master's degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management and another master's, in automatic data processing, from George Washington University.
"That shows how old it was," he said, referring to the data processing degree. "You would now call it computer science. It's dated. However, I have an interest in it."
Admiral Zlatoper said meeting with bankers and trying to understand their needs would likely be his greatest contributions to Sanchez, and Michael Sanchez agreed.
"He's got a lot of potential in sales and helping us get deals," Mr. Sanchez said. "He's got some great war stories to boot."