The Top Corporate Finance Pros in Dallas-Fort Worth
This year's honorees help keep their companies on track—and in the black.
Outstanding Chief Accounting Officer, Controller, or Treasurer—Private Company
Dallas Cowboys Football Club
You don’t have to be a Dallas Cowboys fanatic to work for the Jones family. You just have to be good. Take Thomas Walker. The tax director and assistant treasurer of the Dallas Cowboys Football Club confesses that football isn’t even his favorite sport. “My love is soccer,” says Walker, who played the sport in college. “You obviously have to be loyal to the organization, but you don’t need to paint yourself blue and silver every Sunday.”
Of course, the business of football is about more than players, coaches, and X’s and O’s. Walker’s growing list of responsibilities starts with overseeing all tax affairs related to the football team and the Jones family’s other businesses. On top of that, he handles a range of duties that include helping to buy and sell the company’s North Texas real estate assets and working to identify new investment opportunities. “In a family business, you wear a lot of hats,” explains Walker. “I’ve been lucky that the family has given me the opportunity to do a bunch of different things.”
Walker spent nine years with accounting giant KPMG prior to taking the Cowboys job. One thing that will demand his attention going forward is a big project in the Town of Prosper. It involves developing several thousand acres owned by the Jones family, and should start later this year. “That will keep us very busy, I suspect,” he says.
Finalist—Outstanding Chief Accounting Officer, Controller, or Treasurer—Private Company
Unity Hunt Inc.
“When I was hired, as vice president of accounting and controller for Unity Hunt, I was charged with improving the efficiency of the accounting department by upgrading our systems. At the time, the department created all financial reports for more than 100 legal entities manually in Excel.
“The most impactful change I made was eliminating the concentration account and purchasing third-party software that allowed the system to cycle through all companies during a single check run. This change alone reduced our wire bank fees by $30,000 a year.
“The year after our audit fees were reduced from $165,000 to $95,000, a 42 percent decrease. Over a five-year period, a 42 percent reduction in audit fees and a 26 percent reduction in bank fees were realized.
“In my spare time, for the past two years, I have served as the vice chairman for the sponsorship committee of the Dallas Chapter of Financial Executives. In addition to volunteering for the North Texas Food Bank and The Family Place, I am an avid runner with the Dallas Running Club and the White Rock Running Co-Op.”
Outstanding Public Service
Christopher A. Poinsatte
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is going through a big change. For more than 30 years the airport has done business one way. But following the recent signing of vendor agreements—some of them years in the making—the airport has entered a new era of business practices. The visionary and chief instigator behind these changes: Christopher A. Poinsatte, executive vice president and chief financial officer.
Poinsatte came to D/FW—the fourth largest airport in the world—in 2003, following a 15-year stint at Dallas Area Rapid Transit and two years at a startup. As CFO of the airport, he manages the company’s $5 billion in assets, $3.7 billion in debt, $1.1 billion in cash and investments, and $650 million annual budget. That’s just to start his day.
“I always want to do things better than they were done yesterday,” he says. “I’m all about the team winning. When I come to work, I want it to be better than it was.”
A few years ago, Poinsatte was charged with creating a strategic plan to make the airport more competitive in an increasingly cutthroat market. To start, Poinsatte cut a deal with the rental car companies at DFW, saving $36 million for the airport. Another recent refunding of car rental bonds and other cost-saving strategies already under way combined to save the airport a total of $96 million, including freeing up $40 million in cash.
As if that wasn’t enough, Poinsatte recreated D/FW’s “Use Agreement,” signed last year. The previous agreement dated back to the 1970s. Under the new agreement, the airport will operate more like a private company. In part, that means the airport will retain its nonairline revenue to reinvest into the airport, rather than giving those monies back to the airlines, as it had been doing under the former pact.
Part of that reinvestment will go into the terminal renewal and improvement program, focused on revamping four of the airport’s older terminals. Terminal A is expected to be complete by 2014.
To better compete in a post-Wright Amendment world—and largely to help cut expenses for its biggest occupant, AMR—DFW reduced its costs to airlines for terminal rentals and landing fees by 28 percent, a strategic benefit of a debt-restructuring plan Poinsatte implemented a few years back.
And he isn’t done yet. Poinsatte continues to change the course of D/FW Airport.
“It’s a culture shift we’re in the middle of right now,” he says. “I want it to be remembered that we got it done, and we did it the right way.”
Award for Excellence in Corporate Governance
Richard Bowen III
UTD’s Naveen Jindal School of Management
Richard Bowen is nothing if not bold. Although he currently serves as senior lecturer in accounting at the University at Texas-Dallas’s Naveen Jindal School of Management, it was experiences in his previous career in the finance industry that intensely challenged his moral resolve and honed his courage.
In early 2006, Bowen was working for Citigroup when he was promoted to senior vice president and business chief underwriter. In this role,
he was responsible for ensuring that more than $90 billion in mortgages purchased each year met Citigroup’s internal policy guidelines. He quickly discovered that more than 60 percent of those mortgages did not.
Immediately, he began issuing warnings—warnings supported by his direct supervisor—and continued to do so for a year and half. Meanwhile, the percent of defective mortgages continued to climb to 80 percent. Despite his warnings, in 2007 Bowen was relieved of his duties at Citigroup.
“I had no doubts what I had to do and there’s no questioning on my part about what I did,” Bowen said. “I was trying to do my job.”
Often referred to as the “Citigroup whistleblower,” in 2010 Bowen was called as a witness in a federal hearing on subprime origination and securitization, part of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which was created to examine the cause behind the recent devastating U.S. economic crisis.
In February 2012, Citibank admitted mortgage fraud in a $158 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.
Now, as a professor at UTD with more than 35 years in the banking and finance sector, he uses his experiences to motivate his students. “I want them to understand that there’s nothing wrong with raising your hand and saying there’s something wrong …[but] there can be consequences to speaking out and pushing against an organization or the powers that be,” he says. “I also want the students to understand that if they raise their hands and don’t get the response they’re looking for, they can quietly lower their hands and look for another job.”
The events following his revelations and subsequent job loss caused tremendous personal strain on Bowen, even jeopardizing his health, requiring him to undergo several stress-related surgeries. “I’ve got a deep faith, and that is what carried me through this,” he says. “If there’s a lesson that’s been reinforced here it’s that you have to listen to yourself and your own values, because you’re the one who has to live with yourself if you compromise them.”