The U.S. subprime mortgage meltdown. The ongoing credit crunch. Volatile markets. The Bush administration’s rethinking of the nation’s regulatory blueprint for financial services companies. Talk of a recession.
Yet, Ryan, 62, seems unfazed by the current economic climate.
“It seems like I attract these things,” says Ryan, who was a principal manager in the 1990s of the savings & loan cleanup, which involved closing roughly 700 insolvent institutions, improving capital bases and selling over $300 billion of assets. “When I was doing the S&L cleanup, it was called a once-in-a-lifetime event, a historic moment. ‘Historic moment’ is an overused term.”
Then, as now, Ryan views the economy in terms of cycles.
As he puts it: “The economy has expanded since the S&L cleanup concluded in 1994 with the exception of a couple of blips in financial markets that didn’t last long. So this is the first sustained downturn we’ve had since. These things run through financial markets. It’s not a surprise.”
In fact, he adds, “It’s interesting for someone like me because I’ve kind of done it before. I’m not being cavalier with my comments. It’s just that you need to keep all this in perspective. When it seems like the sky is falling and the sun will never come up again, it does.”
Ryan, who most recently served as vice chairman of investment banking for financial institutions and governments at JP Morgan Chase, was chosen as SIFMA’s chief executive in January after an exhaustive six-month search. He replaces Marc Lackritz, who retired last year.
At the time, SIFMA chairman Blythe Masters said Ryan’s mix of “hands-on industry and product knowledge, keen command of domestic and global public policy and proven leadership skills” would help establish SIFMA as “the powerful voice” of the securities industry and global financial markets. Ryan started the job in April.
In addition to the external events in play, Ryan takes over SIFMA at a time when the organization’s internal structure faces challenges. Created in late 2006 as a result of the merger of the Securities Industry Association and the Bond Market Association, Ryan says “there’s some additional work required to produce a merged entity that is fully responsive to members’ needs and to essentially earn its reputation every day.”
Ryan, who has been through four mergers himself, said the two predecessor organizations, one that operated top-down, the other bottom-up, failed to assimilate around a shared objective. And, with 100 committees working on various industry projects, there’s been overlap that hasn’t been understood or communicated.
Ryan has been quick to act. A new organizational set-up will be put in place by mid-summer.
Nationally, SIFMA has two prevailing goals: to push for changes in the tax code that would make it more user-friendly for investors, and to be a leader on regulatory reform.