Tag Archives: finance

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Thunderbird hosts global trade finance seminar

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, a coalition of business, trade, and educational organizations will host The Global Connect: Arizona Trade Finance Seminar on Friday, February 21, 2014 at Thunderbird School of Global Management.

The seminar brings together trade finance experts from both the public and private sectors to discuss the resources available to U.S. exporters, especially local small and medium-sized companies, for their financing needs. This seminar is also offered in support of the advancement of U.S. Hispanic-owned businesses in global markets. Participants will have the opportunity to meet with experts one-on-one.

Keynote speakers include: U.S. Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services Ted Dean, who leads the Department’s efforts to enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. services industries; MBDA Acting National Director Alejandra Castillo, one of the highest ranking Hispanic officials in the Obama Administration; and Ernesto Poza, Thunderbird Clinical Professor of Global Entrepreneurship.

The seminar is co-sponsored and presented by Thunderbird School of Global Management, FCIB – The Finance, Credit & International Business Association, the Arizona District Export Council, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and NACM of Arizona – Southwest Business Credit Services.

AZRE Digital Issue

AZRE Magazine September/October 2013

AZRE Magazine September/October 2013

‘When one door closes, another opens …’

AmandaVentura_web

There are many famous quotes and accomplishments that can be attributed to Alexander Graham Bell. One of his more famous lines reads: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” In the commercial real estate industry, there were a lot of doors that were closed during the Great Recession. But thanks to the dogged determination, resiliency and leadership of Arizona’s commercial real estate companies — both big and small — the doors are once again opening and the industry is poised to capitalize on those opportunities. In this issue of AZRE, we look into:

  • Office and industrial: A panel of five experts size up two sectors that are gaining momentum once again. Also, a new and improved “Big Deals.”
  • Multi-family: This sector continues to sizzle. Check out our annual special section with the Arizona Multihousing Association.
  • Urban Land Institute: Arizona’s statewide convener for dialogue among industry leaders — true visionaries.
  • Coreslab Structures: Celebrating 25 years of excellence in Arizona.
  • Law: Social media becoming a new and necessary tool.

Finally, I’m sad to say that this is the last issue of AZRE to which former editor Peter Madrid will contribute. Peter helped build AZRE into the definitive publication for Arizona’s commercial real estate industry. So while we appreciate Peter’s contributions, we are happy that Amanda Ventura (pictured above) is taking the baton and bringing her award-winning journalism skills to AZRE. Amanda’s expertise, energy and commitment to excellence will make AZRE an even more authoritative voice for the industry.

When one door closes, another opens.

amanda-signature

Amanda Ventura, Editor

Take it with you! On your mobile, go to m.issuu.com to get started.

KEYSER-Final1

Chris Camacho Joins Keyser

Keyser — a commercial real estate advisory firm providing global real estate services to tenants and users of office, industrial, healthcare and educational space — announced today that Chris Camacho will be joining Keyser in a strategic leadership capacity to help grow and scale the organization.

“I am extremely pleased to be able to officially welcome Chris to the team,” stated founder Jonathan Keyser. “Chris is one of the most talented, knowledgeable, and service oriented individuals that I know, and his experience over the last 10 years working with CEOs, municipal leaders, and site selectors provide him with a skillset and perspective that is hard to find in our industry. In addition, his deep expertise in designing complex real estate and incentive solutions for both domestic and international corporations will be a huge value-add to Keyser’s clients going forward.”

Chris has more than 10 years of executive management experience in economic development, site selection, and cost optimization, tax analysis and state and local incentive strategies. He has served as an advisor in the real estate due diligence process for many Fortune 500 companies as well as emerging start-ups across the country. Prior to joining Keyser, Chris served as the Executive Vice President for Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and oversaw the domestic and international business development strategies. He brings extensive experience in auditing and advising a wide diversity of industries including renewable energy, hardware and software, aerospace, industrial manufacturing, logistics and corporate back office. Chris has directly assisted more than 130 companies in their expansions or relocations to Greater Phoenix. Prior to GPEC, Chris served as the President/CEO of GYEDC, which focused on attracting new investment to a bi-national region in southwestern Arizona and Northern Mexico.

ConcertforaCauseLogoCropped

Cushman & Wakefield Future Leaders ‘Concert for a Cause’ to benefit Ryan House

Logo_2013Cushman & Wakefield Future Leaders “Concert for a Cause” benefiting Ryan House is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 24 at The Western, 6830 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale.

The four-hour event will feature performances by Javier Garcia and Desert Dixie. During the show concertgoers will be able to enjoy the entertainment and also contribute much-needed funding that will help provide care, comfort and community to Arizona children and families at Ryan House. There will also be a raffle with items ranging from restaurant gift cards to hotel stays. Last year’s inaugural event raised almost $30,000.

All the proceeds from the concertwill benefit the mission of the Ryan House, which is to provide respite and palliative care to children with life-threatening conditions and, as-needed, end-of-life care. From diagnosis through end-of-life and beyond, Ryan House provides Arizona families a comprehensive program of family-centered care including medical, emotional, social and spiritual support services and therapies to enhance quality of life.

Ryan House is a 501(c)(3) organization and all donations are tax deductible. Ryan House is supported 100 percent by charitable contributions.

For more information or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, contact Bonnie Machen at bonnie.machen@cushwake.com or Matt Coxhead at matt.coxhead@cushwake.com.

Construction Employment - Welder

74% of construction firms have trouble finding qualified workers

Nearly three-fourths of construction firms across the country report they are having trouble finding qualified craft workers to fill key spots amid concerns that labor shortages will only get worse, according to the results of an industry-wide survey released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials called for immigration and education reform measures to help avoid worker shortages.

“Many construction firms are already having a hard time finding qualified workers and expect construction labor shortages will only get worse,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “We need to take short- and long-term steps to make sure there are enough workers to meet future demand and avoid the costly construction delays that would come with labor shortages.”

Of the 74 percent of responding firms that are having a hard time finding qualified craft workers, the most frequently reported difficulties are in filling such onsite construction jobs as carpenters, equipment operators and laborers, Sandherr said. Fifty-three percent are having a hard time filling professional positions – especially project supervisors, estimators and engineers.

The association official added that most firms expect labor shortages will continue and get worse for the next year. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they expect it will remain difficult or get harder to find qualified craft workers while 72 percent say the market for professional positions will remain hard or get worse. Seventy-four percent of respondents report there are not enough qualified craft workers available to meet future demand while 49 percent said there weren’t enough construction professionals available, he added.

Sandherr said that many firms report they are taking steps to prepare future construction workers. He noted that 48 percent of responding firms are mentoring future craft workers, 38 percent are participating in career fairs and 33 percent are supporting high school-level construction skills academies. In addition, 47 percent of responding firms are offering internships for construction professionals.

Sandherr cautioned that more needs to be done to address labor shortages. He said Congress needs to jettison arbitrary caps on construction workers that were included in immigration reform the Senate passed earlier this year. “Lifting those restrictions will go a long way to ensuring construction jobs left vacant by domestic labor shortages go to workers who are in the country legally.”

He urged elected and appointed officials to do more to ensure public school students have an opportunity to participate in programs that teach skills like construction. He added that skills-based programs offer students a more hands-on way to learn vital 21st century skills such as math and science. Such programs also have been proven to reduce dropout rates and give students an opportunity to earn the higher pay and benefits that come with construction jobs.

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Frutkin Publishes Equity Crowdfunding book

There has been widespread recognition of the emerging power of crowdfunding, the online phenomenon that provided more than $10 million for iPhone-compatible watch creator Pebble and $5.7 million for the upcoming Veronica Mars movie. Valley Attorney Jonathan Frutkin of The Frutkin Law Firm recently published a new book about this new source of finance, known as “equity crowdfunding”. According to Frutkin, the same power of online funding will soon let local companies raise capital online – and more importantly, make customers into owners, increasing the market share of businesses that successfully leverage this new opportunity.

The book, titled Equity Crowdfunding: Transforming Customers into Loyal Owners, provides insight into how business owners can turn their customers into loyal customers while raising money for their company. It is now available for print and digital purchase on Amazon.com.

“Equity crowdfunding is the single largest marketing opportunity for local businesses to transform mere customers into loyal owners,” Frutkin said when describing the concept. “By resetting the relationship between corporation and patron, the new rules for crowdfunding are going to fundamentally shift the way entrepreneurs think about both raising capital and creating long-term engagements with their customers.”

Interest in crowdfunding drastically increased after President Barack Obama signed the JOBS Act (Jumpstart our Business Startups) in 2012 legalizing equity crowdfunding, subject to new rules being agreed by regulators. A total of $2.7 billion was provided through crowdfunding by individual donors last year, according to reports by research firm Massolution — up 81% from 2011. This space is only going to heat up further when SEC rules for the JOBS Act are released this year, paving the way for equity crowdfunding.

For more information on the book, author Jonathan Frutkin, and The Frutkin Law Firm, visit www.frutkinlaw.com.

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Wanslee Elected to Gust Rosenfeld Executive Committee

Gust Rosenfeld announced that Madeleine C. Wanslee has been elected to its Executive Committee, the governing body of the firm.

Wanslee is Co-Chair of the firm’s Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors’ Rights Practice Group.  Her practice focuses on creditors’ rights and related state and federal court litigation, including commercial and consumer bankruptcy, loan workouts, foreclosure, deficiency and guarantor actions.  She has handled numerous appeals and has argued a case before the United States Supreme Court.  Wanslee is recognized in the Bankruptcy and Creditor-Debtor Rights Law category of The Best Lawyers in Americaâ and in the Bankruptcy and Creditor-Debtor Rights category of Southwest Super Lawyersâ.  She earned her law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law.

Founded in 1921, Gust Rosenfeld provides legal counsel to individuals, businesses, and governments. Our firm’s attorneys enjoy thriving practices in public law, litigation, finance, real estate, corporate, environmental, employment, creditors’ rights, franchise law, estate planning, and tax. Gust Rosenfeld maintains offices in Phoenix and Tucson.

Brad Preber - Managing Partner - Grant Thornton

First Job: Brad Preber, Managing Partner Grant Thornton

Brad Preber, Managing Partner of Grant Thornton, discusses his first job selling seeds door-to-door, his mentors and what he learned along the way.


Brad Preber

Title: Managing Partner
Company: Grant Thornton

Describe your very first job.
When I was a teenager, I found an ad in the back of a magazine promoting the door-to-door sale of seeds. You earned points that you could convert into prizes or
cash. I used the money I earned selling seeds to my neighbors to buy a lawn mower that I then used to start lawn care business.

What did you learn from that first job?
I learned what it takes to sell and promote yourself. I experienced the courage it took to knock on someone’s door and the feeling of optimism that came when they actually did what I wanted them to do.

Describe your first job in your industry.
It was a summer job I took doing some bookkeeping for construction companies. I collected the transaction records, recorded them into the accounting books, and prepared financial statements.

What were your salaries in your first job and first industry job?
Selling the seeds was a point system and the points were converted into prizes or cash. I was paid $300 a month for doing bookkeeping for the construction company. I also had an opportunity to apply for scholarship money from the company. I was a broke college student so any extra money helped.

Who is your biggest mentor?
I don’t really have a single individual that I see as a mentor. Instead, I looked to teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents for guidance. I took small pieces of each of them into consideration for what I wanted to be when I grew up. They combined to become big portion of what I am today.

What lessons did you take from your high school coaches?
It’s very clear that the principle of the seven Ps — Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Pretty Poor Performance — is as applicable to life as it is to football. Like football, it takes a team to be successful in business. You have to know your role, set goals for the team, and execute strategies to achieve them.

What advice would you give someone entering your industry today?
The good news is that there are still plenty of jobs to be had in accounting and finance. One thing most people don’t recognize is that there are rarely any home runs in this business. It’s a series of small steps and steady improvement over a long career that allows you to advance and move into ownership.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
If I had the time and the capital to pull it off, I would have become an artist. If I didn’t have the capital to pull it off, I would have become a fly-fishing guide.

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012

2010 CFO Of The Year Awards

2010 CFO Of The Year Awards

The 4th annual CFO of the Year Awards ceremony took place on Nov. 4, at the Fairmont Scottsdale. The awards recognized 28 CFOs for their outstanding performances in their roles as corporate financial stewards. Four overall winners from the categories of private, small public and large public companies and nonprofit organization were recognized. The Arizona Chapter of Financial Executives International partnered with Arizona Business Magazine to make these awards possible.

CFO Awards recognizing leaders

Joan Brubacher

Gayle Pincus

From left: Jonathan Keyser, Tim Einwechter and Joan Brubacher.

Finalists

From left: Cheryl Green, Joan Brubacher, Ryan Suchala and Mary Jane Rynd of the Virginia G Piper Charitable Trust.

From left: Andrew Ernst, Dan Bacchus, Cheryl Vogt and Joan Brubacher.

From left: Jonas McCormick, David Jackson, Tod Holmes, James Hatfield, Jason Berg and Joan Brubacher.
From left: Jonas McCormich, Tod Holmes and Joan Brubacher.

Health Care Reform in Arizona - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Business And Community Leaders Are Trying To Figure Out What Health Care Reform Will Mean In Arizona

For government and business, providers and patients, the U.S. health care reform legislation promises a new world of costs and care.

Most individuals without insurance will be able to get it. Those who have insurance already probably will have to pay more for it. Hospitals, doctors and others in the front lines of health care will begin to change long-established ways of doing business. State governments and many businesses, already battered by recession, will face new costs and possibly some benefits.

But beyond these generalizations, little is certain about what health care reform will mean in Arizona and across the country. The bill is vague in many areas and leaves important details of implementation to be determined by federal regulators and other officials in the weeks and months ahead.

“Quite frankly, we won’t know the financial impacts until we move through the process and see what the federal government and insurance companies do,” says Donna Davis, chief executive officer of the Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA).

Barry Broome, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), says it is too early know what the bill will mean.

“It sounds very good to be able to cover the uninsured, but what the costs are and how they are going to be distributed are still not clear,” he says.

Marjorie Baldwin, director of the School of Health Management and Policy and assistant dean at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, says it is important to note that the law’s primary purpose is to cover the uninsured.

“This bill is about access,” Baldwin says. “It’s designed to cover the uninsured. There is much less in it about quality of care and little about cost controls.”

On what the price tag for health care reform will be, Baldwin says, “The one safe prediction is that it is going to cost much more than anticipated.”

Hospitals and doctors
Whether the health care overhaul is ultimately deemed a success will be determined to a large extent by what happens inside the nation’s hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices.

Peter Pavarini, a health care lawyer for Squire, Sanders and Dempsey and an adviser to health care organizations, believes hospitals are actually well-positioned to adapt to the new law.

“Hospitals have been anticipating something happening for some time,” Pavarini says. “Hospitals have the resources to prepare better than some of the other players in the health care system.”

Several provisions in the law are expected to lead to a dramatic shift in the way hospitals are paid by insurance. Under the existing system, providers receive set rates for specific medical procedures. The new law moves toward a system in which hospitals receive a set amount for treating an overall condition or a so-called “bundled payment.” This shift is expected to require more detailed treatment plans, coordinated care and closer cooperation among hospitals and physicians.

“With the bundled payments, you have to have a more integrated approach and an approach that aligns physicians and hospitals,” says Suzanne Pfister, vice president of external affairs at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

The hospital already has been moving in this direction, according to Pfister. St. Joseph’s has forged a series of partnerships with area health care organizations, including outpatient and short-stay providers United Surgical Partners and SimonMed Imaging
.
“We are continuing to look at moving from acute care to a continuum of care,” Pfister says.

Pavarini believes the new payment systems for Medicaid and Medicare will bring big changes to care at hospitals. When the system is in place, hospitals will get a set payment for delivering all of the care a patient receives from 72 hours before admission to 30 days after discharge, he notes.

“That’s a whole different model from what we have now,” Pavarini says. “This means it’s not good enough just to get the patient in and out of the hospital. It means testing can’t be duplicative. And it means patients better be ready for discharge when they’re released.”

Pavarini says doctors and hospitals will need to cooperate more closely as the law is implemented. He sees hospitals forging formal alliances with physician groups and appointing more practicing physicians to their boards of directors.
A more basic concern for hospitals is how much they will be paid. Because expansion of Medicaid is a key feature of the law, hospitals are concerned about long-term revenue.

“Payments are going to shift more to the level of Medicaid, and Medicaid has not been a particularly good payer,” Pfister says.

Officials at Phoenix-based Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, are still examining the legislation to assess its consequences.

“This reform is primarily about health insurance, not health care reform,” the organization said in a statement. “It will result in expanded AHCCCS (Medicaid) coverage in Arizona and access to insurance, but the need remains to address reducing the cost of health care.”

The bill includes a number of provisions that will increase the role of primary-care physicians. Medicaid fees will go up for primary-care doctors, who also will be eligible for bonuses from Medicare.

St. Joseph’s is concerned about being able to find enough physicians as health care reform is implemented in the coming years, according to Pfister.

“Arizona has fewer physicians per capita than the national average, so we face that already. Arizona does not have enough primary-care physicians and even some specialists,” she says.

The larger hospitals that have formal ties to physicians and other providers probably will fare best under health care reform, according to Pavarini. But he believes smaller, more isolated hospitals will struggle and some will close.

“Arizona has a number of smaller hospitals in less populated areas,” he says. “I think the outlying hospitals in rural communities could have difficulty.”

Businesses
While all businesses will be affected by the health care reform law, some will feel it more than others. Probably least affected will be firms that already provide health insurance now and have a pool of employees large enough to allow the companies to self-insure.

“For most large businesses, fundamentally there’s not a lot of change,” says Keith Maio, president and chief executive officer of National Bank of Arizona. “For us, we’ll have to be a little more paperwork conscious.”

ASU’s Baldwin says the principal effect on large employers will be slightly higher expenses, as they absorb some of the cost of the system’s expanded coverage.

“For larger employers, the law is not going to mean a big difference, but they are going to see their costs go up,” she says.

Smaller businesses though will face new uncertainties, and, for some, significant new costs.

“I would say that there is a cloud of concern generally for small businesses,” says Maio, whose bank has many small business customers. “People who have been through the recession and are still slugging it out have learned to survive. But they still have trouble seeing how they can get back to where they were . That’s why something like the health care bill can have such an impact.”

The law offers a complex mix of incentives and penalties designed to spur employers to offer health insurance. In 2014, employers with 50 or more workers who do not provide coverage will face penalties of $2,000 or $3,000 per employee. Some employers who provide insurance and have fewer than 50 workers will be eligible for tax credits.

“In a sense there is both a carrot and a stick,” says Bradford Kirkman-Liff, professor in the School of Health Management and Policy at W. P Carey. “The idea is to create a very strong incentive to provide insurance.”

The tax credits could offset as much as half of the insurance costs for some employers, Kirkman-Liff notes.

“Arizona has a high number of small employers. Many of them don’t provide health insurance, but some do. This would give them a reason not to drop it,” he says.

The law also instructs states to establish insurance exchanges, where small employers and individuals can purchase policies from insurance companies. The exchanges are designed to bring down the cost of insurance by combining groups of buyers into large pools.

But even with government subsidies and insurance exchanges, some businesses will find the burden too large, according Maio.

“The greatest impact will be on those that employ entry-level employees,” he says. “Arizona has a lot of lower-wage businesses who won’t be able to afford to provide insurance. I think some will opt to pay the fine. Then what have you accomplished?”

Another problem that Maio sees is the 50-employee threshold for the coverage requirement. Employers with fewer than 50 can escape penalties for not providing insurance.

“Have you given them a disincentive to adding people?” he asks.

Davis at ASBA says most business owners are focused on short-term challenges and do not have a clear picture of how the law will affect them.

“For some small businesses who fit the prescribed requirements, it will help offset some of their costs,” Davis says. “For others, it simply won’t.”

money, cash, hundred dollar bills

This Isn’t the First Crisis The Valley’s Banking Industry Has Faced

The Valley has come a long way over the past 25 years, and the banking and financial sector is no exception. Challenges, crises and legislation brought about dramatic change that has created a new era in banking and finance. In the mid-80s local banks dominated the sector, while regional and national banks were nonexistent. The Valley was home to the “big three” — Valley National, First Interstate Bank of Arizona and The Arizona Bank.

The financial sector was real estate driven, with a considerable concentration in housing and commercial real estate development. Second to real estate were the “Five C’s” of Arizona’s economy: climate, cotton, citrus, cattle and copper.

The savings and loan and real estate crises of the late-80s were the turning point in the Valley’s banking sector. At a time when Arizona’s “big three” were suffering, large banking corporations invaded. Bank of America’s first “real” presence in the Valley was assimilating five different savings and loans in the state.

In summary, there have been many milestones over the past 25 years that have shaped the banking sector. Such milestones include sustaining itself through the S&L crisis and the severe commercial real estate downturn of the late-80s; recovering from the infamous Lincoln Savings and American Continental debacle; weathering the “dot-com” implosion of 2000; and passing the Interstate Banking Act that led to dramatic industry consolidation of local banks into regional, national and global banking organizations. More recently, the securitization boom in both the residential and commercial real estate market revolutionized real estate lending.

Today’s “big three” — Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America — control the vast majority of deposits statewide and a much more dramatic concentration of banking resources overall. But more importantly, small and mid-size banks have reemerged. 
There is also now more proactive leadership in the business community.

Arizona and the Valley have a more diverse economic base due to the dramatic progress of our investment in education, as well as the high-tech, defense, life sciences, health care, biotech, telecom, optics, hospitality, entertainment and transportation industries. We now have an “alignment” of stakeholders, including the public, business, academic and philanthropic sectors, and therefore stronger initiatives for more diverse economic development, such as sustainable systems, solar and renewable energy and land management.

That said, in 2009 we are again faced with many economic challenges that will no doubt continue to shape our industry and affect how we operate. Banks need to grow wiser and smarter in serving their communities and Arizona’s businesses. We are resource constrained from a state revenue standpoint and by expenditures driven by our phenomenal population growth and federal-mandated programs. Arizona is a high-growth state and we need to strike the right balance between infrastructure “catch-up” and smart and balanced growth. The banking industry has and will continue to support a more knowledge-based and service-oriented economy.

What does the future hold for the banking and financial sector? Banks will need to play a transformational leadership role in public issues, specifically economic diversification and development, as well as public finance. The industry must become a recognized leader for innovative approaches to capital formation and connecting intellectual capital with financial capital.

We must also promote a diverse array of financial institutions from small local community banks and mid-size niche banks to larger regional and global institutions that promote cross-border trade finance and strategic alliances.

There is no doubt that the next 25 years will bring as many challenges and reforms as we have overcome in the past, but our state’s banks will regain their strength; the strong will survive, consolidate the weak and prosper with our state’s growth. And as Arizona’s banking industry continues to grow stronger and smarter, we foster confidence as we reaffirm the leadership role in Arizona’s economic foundation.

AZ Big Media 25 years

Arizona Business Magazine Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary

An important lesson in the launch of any business or new product is to learn everything you can about your target consumer, and that’s exactly what Mike Atkinson did when he bought the Office Guide to Phoenix 25 years ago. He approached leaders in the community in such industries as health care and law, and asked them what they wanted and needed from a local business magazine.

“I took reams of notes and what came out of it was Arizona Business Magazine,” Atkinson says. “The research led me down a path of this is how it should look and read.”

Atkinson was inspired to enter the publishing arena because it presented the chance to exercise his artistic abilities. He wanted to create “a product that was fundamentally art-related and a product that could help inspire, excite and help educate,” he explains. “I’m an artist at heart, so the magazine’s pages were like my mini-canvases.”

Initially, Atkinson was the sole employee of the publication — he wrote the stories, shot the photos and sold the ads. Today, however, the company has increased to nearly 30 employees and publishes an additional six titles, including AZRE: Arizona Commercial Real Estate, Ranking Arizona, Experience AZ, People to Know, Creative Designer and Scottsdale Home & Design. The flagship publication has also undergone many changes over the years, including its frequency, which has gone from quarterly to bimonthly, and in February 2008, to monthly. The company has evolved as well, and last year was re-named AZ Big Media.

Atkinson didn’t limit his creativity to the magazines, however. In 1991, the company launched its first Arizona Home & Building Expo, which is now in its 18th year. AZ Big Media also hosts a series of awards and events that honor various segments of the business community, from health care to finance. In March 2009, the company held its inaugural Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference. AZ Big Media’s newest venture, the Home & Design Idea Center, opens this summer. The company is also building a strong presence online with its new Web site, www.azbigmedia.com, where readers can find many of the stories featured in each magazine.

“If you go to our Web site, you’ll see ‘online’ is where we’re heading in the future,” Atkinson says. He adds that the future will include more home shows when the market is ready for them. He also hints of possibly even adding a radio station.

If he could go back in time and change one thing, Atkinson says, it would involve the company’s interaction with its audience online.

“At the time, we were just learning about the Internet, and I remember one of my editors came in my office and said ‘Guess where I was today? I was on the computer and I was talking to people all the way in Italy!’ and he began to describe how it took him to different places,” he says. “I thought that was pretty cool, but I didn’t have the foresight to say, ‘This computer Web thing just might turn out to be something really big!’ ”

Looking back on the past 25 years, Atkinson says his success is due to two key things: “Hard work and surrounding myself with the right people.”

Here’s to one day cashing in this 25-year silver achievement for gold.

Investing man

Changing Investment Management Firms Can Be Costly

Patience, it turns out, can be indeed a virtue — especially for retirement plan sponsors. Sunil Wahal, professor of finance at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and his co-authors compiled a database of hiring and firing decisions made by more than 3,700 plan sponsors between 1994 and 2003. The reasons plan sponsors change investment management firms vary, but often the sponsors hire firms that have recently earned significant excess returns.

However, Wahal and his team found that those high fliers do not perform as well after they are hired, and the fired firms sometimes go on to turn in impressive numbers. If plan managers had stayed with their original managers, Wahal says, their excess returns would have been larger than those delivered by the newly hired managers.

“When firing decisions are made, one needs to be very careful and cognizant of the costs involved,” Wahal says.

Factor costs into decisions
Wahal’s study of the selection and termination of investment management firms by plan sponsors looked at 9,684 hiring decisions by 3,737 plan sponsors between 1994 and 2003. The plan managers hired by the sponsors were responsible for delegating $737 billion in investments. The study also examined 933 firing decisions by 515 plan sponsors between 1996 and 2003. Nearly $117 billion of investments were impacted by those decisions.

“There is an enormous amount of money that is invested in the market by plan sponsors. These organizations make a lot of decisions about who gets to manage the assets for the beneficiaries,” Wahal observes. “Sometimes the hiring and firing decisions they make work well. Sometimes they don’t. The frictions involved in these decisions are costly to beneficiaries.”

The rationale for a change varies. Plan sponsors usually fire investment management firms for poor performance, but sometimes they act because of an organizational change. For example, the investment management firm may have gone through a merger, or a star stock picker or portfolio manager may have left. The plan sponsor also may decide to change direction with its investments, such as switching from running a large-cap stock portfolio to a bond portfolio.

Factors that point to success
Wahal found that consultants are hired to assist plan sponsors in nearly two-thirds of all hiring decisions. Excess returns from consultant-supported decisions are higher, consistent with the notion that a consultant’s expertise adds value when selecting managers. But there’s a downside to consultants. They often take the blame, in place of the firm’s treasurer, when a company with a defined benefits plan selects a plan manager that performs poorly. Even so, using a consultant led to a 3.7 percent increase in three-year, post-hiring returns.

The researchers also found that returns were higher as the size of the plan increased, presumably because the sponsors of bigger plans have more experience selecting investment managers. In addition, they discovered that plan sponsors like to hire investment management firms within their own states. The study found that those in-state, post-hiring returns were positive.

Despite evidence that a number of factors can predict success, plan sponsors typically selected investment management firms by screening their performance based on excess returns. Firms are usually hired after investment managers have done very well, with an average excess return of 13.8 percent three years before the hiring decision.
Yet, after an investment management firm was hired, the study found the excess returns were close to — or below — zero.

“It’s not that they do poorly,” Wahal explains, “they don’t do as well as they had been doing prior to being hired. In other words, when you chase returns, you chase hot hands. But those hot hands don’t seem to persist.”
Wahal also learned that three years after the firing decisions, excess returns were sometimes up, with performance-based firings resulting in bigger return reversals. In fact, it was discovered that had plan sponsors stayed with the fired investment managers, excess returns would be more than what the newly hired managers delivered at some horizons.

Transition costs can add up
When a plan sponsor decides to fire an investment manager, the sponsor then has to take those funds and provide them to the newly hired investment management firm. This process entails what are commonly referred to as transition costs, that is, the cost of selling the old portfolio and creating a new one. Wahal says that “such costs can frequently be as much as 2 percent, and add to any other losses that the plan sponsor might suffer.” So, the newly hired manager is expected not only to deliver superior returns, but also perhaps to recover the 2 percent transition costs. Wahal argues that “to the extent that we do not live in Lake Wobegon, this is quite a challenge.”

“What’s really important is that the firing and hiring process be set up very well,” he says. “You can’t be too quick to jump the gun on firing and hiring because those costs have to be factored into the decision. Someone’s going to bear that loss and typically it’s the beneficiaries of the plan sponsors.”

world currency

Companies Need To Start Thinking About Converting To International Financial Reporting Standards

More than 100 countries have already adopted or base their own accounting standards on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Last August, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved for public comment its long-awaited proposed roadmap for the eventual use of IFRS by U.S. companies.

The proposal foresees that early adoption of IFRS could happen as soon as this year for very large companies. For others, mandatory reporting under IFRS could begin in 2014, 2015 or 2016, depending on the size of the company.

Why think about it now?
With the global financial crisis, business owners may backburner IFRS in favor of more immediate issues. That’s understandable, but it may not be the right approach. If you are contemplating new finance systems or software purchases, for example, the systems you implement today will likely require modifications to ensure that the accounting, tax planning and compliance processes continue to operate effectively and efficiently under IFRS.

While CPAs regularly adjust to evolving accounting rules and standards, my experience with some of the largest companies in Arizona has shown that focusing on longer-term issues such as the implementation of IFRS can have a positive impact on the bottom line. Learning to “speak IFRS” may be challenging, but it will lead to increased transparency and investor confidence, and when that happens, everyone wins.

As a general rule, IFRS standards are broader than those of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP), and there are fewer bright lines and less interpretive guidance. In addition, IFRS has far-reaching effects beyond the accounting differences, and will involve every area of the company, beginning with the way data is gathered and processed to how debt covenants are written to the metrics against which executives and employees are measured. Conversion will take focus, planning, time and resources. Getting comfortable with IFRS now will make the transition easier for the entire company.

Timely training will be one key to a successful transition — and not just for staff. Investors and analysts will need to be educated about the effect IFRS will have on financial statements. Audit committee members will need to become familiar with IFRS to function effectively in their oversight roles and to understand management’s strategies. These activities should not wait until the new reporting standards are actually in use.

IFRS 101
The first step in any conversion is a gap analysis, or diagnostic, that compares reporting under US GAAP to reporting under IFRS. In addition to the reporting differences, the diagnostic will identify the main business effects of conversion, any tax ramifications and hurdles to conversion that may occur in the present finance structure, and will discover if the company has the resources to carry out the conversion in-house.

The diagnostic will also provide a timeline on who should be trained, when they should be trained and in what they should be trained. In designing a training program, your primary question should be, “What do we need to do to be ready on time?” As with all decisions, it’s important to be strategic. Educating the accounting and finance organizations is a given, as well as the information technology team. But it’s also important to involve other departments affected by the conversion early on in the process (e.g., investor relations, HR, sales and marketing) to make sure conversion is embedded in your business.

Human resources will need to understand how key performance criteria for incentive compensation may be affected by the conversion. In addition, accounting for stock-based compensation is significantly different under IFRS than under US GAAP. Tax professionals will require training on the conversion methodology, as well as on new IFRS accounting principles, to ensure appropriate tax planning and reporting of the tax provision, balance sheet accounts and tax return information. The legal team will need to examine debt, equity and lease financing arrangements; long-term customer contracts and long-term sourcing agreements, among others. The internal auditor’s enterprise-wide purview positions it well toprovide consistency, oversight and control to all areas throughout the conversion process.

IFRS conversion most likely will be the largest, single change of accounting policies and procedures ever undertaken by U.S. companies. It is also an interesting challenge for businesses and provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to review and synchronize the processes and procedures that touch the entire organization. Ultimately, the business “owns” the conversion, and the more fluently it “speaks IFRS,” the better off it will be.

Merl Waschler

Merl Waschler’s First Job

Merle Waschler
President and CEO, Valley of the Sun United Way

Describe your very first job and what lessons you learned from it.
As a young adult in high school and my early college years, I worked at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in my hometown state of New Jersey. I consider my time at Greystone to be one of those pivotal life-shaping experiences. As an orderly and camp counselor, I worked serving the needs of mentally ill adults and children from all walks of life. Here I learned the power of empathy, patience and the true meaning of human potential. These virtues continue to shape my life and career daily.

Describe your first job in your industry and what you learned from it?
Upon graduating from Penn State University, I began my finance and accounting career at Arthur Andersen. Throughout my tenure at the firm, I sharpened my skills in business management and developed a business approach to accounting. I continue to utilize the financial management, operations and strong business ethics I learned early in my career at Arthur Andersen. I am genuinely grateful that my first industry job led me to a strong relationship with United Way. During my career at the firm, I served as a United Way loaned executive. As such, I worked alongside United Way staff helping to increase the understanding human service needs, and encouraged donations to the annual fundraising campaign. This journey has come full circle for me, as loaned executives are tremendous support to Valley of the Sun United Way.

What were your salaries at both of these jobs?
I made minimum wage at Greystone Park (around $3.25 an hour) and earned about $10,300 a year at Arthur Andersen.

Who is your biggest mentor and what role did they play?
My career and professional mentorship hit its pinnacle as Valley of the Sun United Way’s president. I am fortunate to have the counsel of leaders that span diverse industries, leadership levels and areas of expertise. As a leadership group, I look to corporate CEOs, nonprofit leaders, community philanthropists and many others for advice on pressing issues in the areas of education, income and health to guide Valley of the Sun United Way’s work. Equally important is the community’s voice to ensure pressing human care needs continue to be met. This wide-range community perspective is powerful and reflects a desire from all to create opportunities for a better tomorrow.

I continue to be inspired by my professional and community mentors and will work vigorously to improve the quality of life in our community for individuals, families and children.

What advice would you give to a person just entering your industry?
The nonprofit sector continues to innovate and transform to meet community needs. I would encourage individuals entering the field to consider that changing community conditions takes time, tenacity, innovation and a degree of risk. I’ve seen an increasing number of nonprofits moving toward the integration of business models and social change theories. All of this represents a great opportunity for individuals, organizations and the communities served by nonprofits.

With this in mind, find an organization that fits your passion and has bold community goals. Surround yourself with innovative thinkers and agents of change. Reach for the opportunity that maximizes results for you and the organization. Remember that long-term change will not be achieved overnight — look for an opportunity with longevity.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
I can honestly say that I cannot imagine doing something else. We often seek to find that job we can be so passionate about that it does not seem like “work” or a “job.” I am very lucky to be living that today. It’s so rewarding to work with business, nonprofit, faith-based, government, academia and so many other sectors to strengthen the quality of life in our community each and every day. I’ve met so many inspiring individuals whose lives have been touched by Valley of the Sun United Way and our many partners. I am humbled to be serving our community and will continue to do so proudly.

working to revive customer trust

Arizona Banks Work To Revive Consumer Confidence After Market Upheavals

Bank failures are in the headlines and that has raised questions for Arizona consumers.  As a result, many of the state’s banks have drawn up their own plans of action to keep customers informed and confident.

“In a period of financial distress and instability, the more banks do to indicate the strength of their portfolios — the fact that they are not tainted by a lot of very risky debt, that the balance sheet does not have a lot of assets that are suspect — the better off they are going to appear,” says Herbert M. Kaufman, professor of finance at the W.P. Cary School of Business at Arizona State University. “It makes some sense for banks that are strong to emphasize that.”

In addition to other bank failures around the country, federal regulators closed First National Bank of Arizona in July, and Nevada-based Silver State Bank in early September. First National is now owned by Mutual of Omaha, and Silver State offices in Arizona reopened as National Bank of Arizona branches. In late September, federal regulators seized Seattle-based Washington Mutual and struck a deal to sell the savings and loan’s operations to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. WaMu and Chase have branches in Arizona.

Consumer confidence in the country’s financial system has weakened, but Capitol Bancorp has not seen a strong response to Arizona bank failures, says John S. Lewis, the company’s president of bank performance. Capitol Bancorp has 10 community banks in Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Yuma.

“There is an underlying concern out there, but we’ve not seen any panic,” says Lewis, who is located in Phoenix.

Concerning the tumultuous first three weeks of September, Wells Fargo Bank’s Gerrit van Huisstede says some customers went to branches with questions about financial industry news.

“The recent news and developments have sparked considerable interest and concern from our customers. Some have asked about their investments, others about FDIC insurance and the safety of their deposits,” says Huisstede, regional president for Wells Fargo’s Desert Mountain Region encompassing Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. “We’re working with each customer to provide the information that meets their individual needs.”

Banks have options to provide as much federal deposit insurance as possible, including the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service operated by Promontory Interfinancial Network in Arlington, Va. CDARS disperses deposits at participating banks into different individual CDs of up to $100,000 each, up to a maximum covered amount of $50 million.

Capitol Bancorp is educating its line employees on FDIC insurance and the status of their individual banks.

“The worst thing bank employees can do when asked if a customer’s deposits are insured is say, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Lewis says.

Wells Fargo builds confidence by “really getting to know our customers, then providing them with the right advice and financial products,” Huisstede says. The bank is reaching out to customers to tell them “they are working with one of the best capitalized large U.S. bank holding companies in the country.”

Education and information are the key to consumer confidence, says Tanya Wheeless, president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Bankers Association.

“Most of the community bankers are being proactive with their customers,” she adds. “Some send letters to customers providing information. For others, maybe it’s statement stuffers providing information. And they’re being available to answer questions. We’ve also seen all our banks put time into training their employees to answer customer questions.”

Meanwhile, Kaufman at ASU emphasizes that American banks are safe.

“The banking system is, right now, one of the stronger positions in the economy, especially the larger banks,” he says. “If anything, consumers are feeling positive about banks as compared to other alternatives.”

As it has responded to crisis situations in the nation’s financial system, the federal government has taken on a role of lender of last resort, and that should be comforting to bank customers, says Marshall Vest, an economist at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.

“Not only does it insure your accounts at banks, the government also has stepped in to provide a backstop for money market mutual funds and it has taken extraordinary and unprecedented measures to fight off the freezing of credit markets,” Vest says. “That offers a great deal of comfort, knowing that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury are there doing their jobs. If they were doing nothing, then we would all be scrambling to pull money out of the bank. There’s no need for that.”

ForeclosureFallout

As More People Lose Their Homes, Banks Are Left Holding The Keys

Acquiring real estate through foreclosures is not exactly the type of transaction banks relish. That’s especially true in a down market that is overloaded with raw land and homes — and a paucity of potential buyers.

Estimates of the amount and value of acquired real estate through foreclosures are difficult, if not impossible, to come by, an industry insider says. A lot of the banks don’t want to talk about it.

“It’s ugly for everyone involved and you can’t even get the Federal Reserve to talk about it,” the insider says.

Anthony B. Sanders, professor of finance and real estate at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, sums up the somewhat dismal situation: “Banks are not in the business of being portfolio managers, either vacant land or housing.

“The way they’re trying to get rid of properties is that most banks are doing packaging. They sell packages of defaulted properties to investors around the United States,” he continues. “They started with national lenders, but there was very little interest in that. Then they went to regional packaging. That didn’t work either. Let’s face it, nobody really wants a Detroit-area loan or housing package.”

What’s happening is that hedge funds and equity funds are looking for very specific types of properties. Raw land value is highly dependent on where the land is.

“That’s why they don’t want to buy large portfolios,” Sanders says. “Because on the urban fringe, when you get way out west or southeast of Phoenix, some of that land they cannot literally give away. The reason is there is no foreseeable development going on in those areas.

“They’re looking for anything related to water rights or mineral rights — anything with natural resource implications still has a positive value,” Sanders says.

Until housing makes a comeback, banks are not finding a lot of interest in 40-acre tracts of desert that someday could be converted into a housing development, Sanders says. Some banks have defaulted single-family homes, often in remote areas.

“During the boom, and until fairly recently, a lot of starter homes were built in areas near Queen Creek, where land prices were fairly inexpensive for the Phoenix market,” Sanders says. “That market has really gotten beaten up pretty hard.”

National and regional bidders for those packages are few and far between.

“It brings back the old adage of location, location, location,” Sanders says. “If you’re planning properties located on major golf courses, or some properties in Scottsdale, there’s interest in that. In the classic subprime neighborhoods, which tend to be lower income, there’s not a lot of interest.”

In the meantime, banks are running around trying to peddle their packages. It’s more feasible to sell packages instead of marketing individual properties, because bank real estate portfolios are overflowing.

“Packages provide a good indication of which areas of Phoenix are likely to keep dropping like a rock,” Sanders says. “It’s those areas where there isn’t any interest in bank packages, which means the market doesn’t think they’re near the bottom. In some areas of Phoenix, the bottom may be a little ways away.”

With packaging of perhaps as many as 200 properties at a time, come discounts.

“The nasty part is that some of these properties are being offered at a big discount and they still can’t get rid of them,” Sanders says.

Even so, there continues to be interest in Ahwatukee, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, which Sanders says means the housing market is showing some signs of life. But he adds this ominous observation.

“This is very reminiscent of the RTC (Resolution Trust Corporation) fiasco after the savings-and-loan debacle. It’s just like when the RTC was putting together packages. That’s the tipoff. Anytime you see packaging, that should make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.”

At the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions, which regulates state-chartered banks and none of the large national ones, Tom Wood, division manager for banks, also recalls the S&L collapse.

“We had a lot of raw land in the 1980s,” he says. “Thank goodness we don’t have much of that now.”

Most of the real estate banks are trying to get rid of consists of single-family homes, Wood says.

“Very rarely do we see raw land,” he says. “Some banks don’t want to own it because it takes longer to get rid of. If they foreclose on raw land, they probably sell it at a sheriff’s sale.”

Wood expects a continued uptick in bank acquisitions of real estate, but sees very little of that among state-chartered banks. He suggests that some larger banks might be bundling foreclosed properties and attempting to dispose of their holdings through auctions or developers.

Depending on which economist you talk to, a substantial housing turnaround won’t happen until 2010. Some say 2009; and yet, as Sanders says, there are signs of life in 2008.

“For certain areas, recovery is there,” Sanders says, “but if I’m sitting in Buckeye, Avondale, Queen Creek and parts of Gilbert, I wouldn’t look for a speedy return.”