Though I have been in the Finance industry for a majority of my career, I got into it by accident. Initially, I studied Electrical Engineering in school during the 80s, but unfortunately, the market and economy were both poor when I graduated. It was during this time that I decided to move to Portland with the hope of working for Intel or Tektronix, two of many tech companies in the area. However, I became frustrated with the state of the industry, and thus returned to school. While in school I saw an opening in banking and thought, “Hey, why don’t I try it part-time?,” and I ended up liking it. And so, I’ve now been in banking for over thirty years, although my career began as an accident.
Currently, I am a Business Lending Consultant for Piedmont Advantage Credit Union. During my career, I’ve run a Community Development Bank, held the position of Bank Examiner, and served as Economic Development Finance Manager to the Portland [Oregon] Development Commission.
Although my original plan for a career in Electrical Engineering never materialized, during the Dot-com Era, I realized my educational background was quite helpful due to the number of high-tech companies forming. As the financier to these types of companies, my understanding of engineering allowed me enter into a room with clients and understand not only their goals but the nature of their work.
That time period was not the only instance where this happened. In my most recent position as Green Business Development Officer to Self-Help, I realized that researching materials on solar energy — my personal passion — biofuel, hydro-dams, etc., I was able to again understand the engineering aspect of projects. So, while I technically never used my education in engineering, nonetheless I’ve put to good use the knowledge I earned. While I experienced a poor economy and job market (for my field) after graduation, I’ve noticed a similar shift in banking over the last thirty years.
If you were to look at the national bank balance sheet, you’d realize that access to fixed capital has really gone down. To elaborate, while the intellectual capital is growing (college graduates), you will find young engineers and doctors who may not have the necessary balance sheet to acquire fixed capital. So, the challenge has become, How do you finance people like that? Because they don’t have collateral to back a loan, yet they have the necessary intellectual capital. This is something that I try to share and emphasize to people — The richness of a person isn’t just the house or land they own, but rather their intellectual capital.
I think over time venture capitalists/angel investors and bankers will find a way to create a product to support young companies. But it will require two things: 1) Time and 2) A concentrated push on behalf of traditional lenders. By nature and demand of the economy, bankers and investors are conservative, so it will take a long time to experience a response to the shift.