Get to know Ygrene Energy Fund’s Michael Chan, winner of a North Bay Business Journal CFO award.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE ESSENTIAL ROLE OF A FINANCIAL LEADER IN THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT?
Our role is to be an advocate for the organization in front of lenders, investors, and even the average person on the street. This means serving as a trusted advisor to management and outlining clear strategies through a detailed business plan to achieve the overall objectives of the organization.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’VE SEEN IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
Now that PACE (property-assessed clean energy lending) is a very secure and attractive asset class — rated AA and on the verge of a AAA rating— the industry is gaining much more exposure than ever before, and, as a result, is attracting attention from investors, service providers, insurers, and lenders both nationally and internationally. We are seeing much better terms for money and the cost of our debt is coming down. Overall, the industry is becoming much more competitive on all fronts.
TELL US ABOUT THE PARTICULAR CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES YOUR ORGANIZATION HAS MET IN THE RECENT PAST,
Right now we’re devoting a lot of resources to educating the financial markets on what PACE is and why it is such a valuable asset class for customers and investors. That being said, there is great opportunity for growth as we see traditional capital markets overcome misconceptions about PACE and embrace this as a new asset market. The flexibility of PACE laws enables us to finance a diverse range of improvements from solar to hurricane protection to water conservation, and that allows us to provide access to a diverse range of property owners using a variety of attractive product offerings.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG EMERGING FINANCIAL LEADERS?
The best thing they can do is continually network, particularly face-to-face. The network you build online, at conferences, in meetings, etc. will serve you well over your long career. Ultimately, finding a good mentor will also be key for your growth.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE FOR WEATHERING TODAY’S ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT?
The volatility in today’s capital markets stems partially from the contentious political climate which impacts our continued access to resources. The best way to combat this is to diversify capital resources as much as possible so as to compensate for any one market fluctuation.
HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR BUSINESS WILL CHANGE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
In the next five years, Ygrene’s PACE financing will reach mass-market status. As PACE becomes a commonly utilized consumer financing solution, expect Ygrene to become a household name, and continue to branch out into new states, offer new products, and reach over $2B per year in financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy, hurricane protection, and drought related improvements.
WHAT IS A DECISION YOU WISH YOU HADN’T MADE? WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
Given how much legal, contract, and negotiation work I am doing, I wish I would have pursued a law degree during the early years of my career, although I’ve been able to learn quite a bit about that field simply due to the nature of the work I am currently involved in.
Chief financial officer
Ygrene Energy Fund
815 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Professional background: He has more than 25 years of financial, capital markets and accounting experience. Prior to joining Ygrene, he led the treasury and capital markets function at The Cronos Group, a market-leading global transportation finance and leasing company, raising over $3.8 billion in capital over three-plus years. He also was CFO of The Chartres Lodging Group, an asset manager and investment adviser that manages a hospitality portfolio with more than 18,000 rooms valued at approximately $5 billion. While at Chartres, he oversaw all accounting, finance, derivatives, tax, insurance/risk management, legal, HR, union and compliance issues. His career has included work with 25 banks, 50 investors, legal counsels and rating agencies to help support Ygrene’s growth plans.
Education: B.S., business administration – accounting, California State University, East Bay