Alan Anders dies; guided New York City’s bond program

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New York City officials and municipal bond industry leaders remembered Alan Anders as more than a guiding force behind the city’s bond program for 30 years.

They cited his passion for the city and for youth-oriented career initiatives.

“Under Alan’s leadership, the city’s bond financing program was widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and successful programs in the country, contributing to the city’s long-term capital strategy and fiscal stability,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday after Anders died following a several-month illness unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was 71.

Alan Anders directed New York City's long-term capital strategy, which involved hundreds of billions of dollars.

Anders was deputy director for financing policy and coordination within the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget. “Alan is important to this city and was a crucial member of our team. He will be missed,” OMB Director Melanie Hartzog said.

Last week, the Municipal Forum of New York honored Anders with a lifetime achievement award, even though it canceled its 31st annual awards dinner because of the coronavirus. It one of among many accolades Anders received over the years.

"I'm overwhelmed with sadness and everyone else is, too," said Geoff Proulx, president of the Municipal Forum and a Morgan Stanley managing director. "Alan first of all was a friend and will be sorely missed by me and everybody at the forum. He was one of our longest-serving members."

Anders was president of the Municipal Forum from 2009 to 2010 and was a governor of the organization at the time of his death. In 2004, the organization bestowed him a public sector award for service.

For decades, Anders championed the Municipal Forum’s Urban Leadership Fellows program, which provides summer internships for under-represented high school students interested in public finance. Many of these interns worked with Anders and his OMB team.

"Alan was very interested in the careers of young people," Proulx said. "When he did a presentation of the Hudson Yards in July 2018, he insisted that all the summer interns attend and set up a tour of the Hudson Yards for the interns after the presentation.

"He wanted to use the event as a vehicle to show the kids what the city did concretely and to spark interest among the students. He was curious about everything and that allowed a view on what can be possible."

Proulx said the Muni Forum is planning a tribute to Anders at next month's annual meeting, which will be virtual because of the pandemic.

“Alan was one of the best minds in public finance," said Suzanne Shank, president and chief executive of bond firm Siebert Williams Shank. "His thoughtful and passionate commitment to New York City and the municipal bond industry motivated us all to do our best.

"On a personal level, I will miss our frequent chats about politics and movies," Shank said. "He will be sorely missed.”

De Blasio and Hartzog credited Anders for contributing to the city’s long-term capital strategy, which involved hundreds of billions of dollars.

"These funds support building and improving schools, parks, affordable housing, fire and police stations, and other critical infrastructure that keeps the city running," de Blasio said. "It is no exaggeration to say that generations of New Yorkers benefit from his life’s work.

“The city’s bond financing program was widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and successful programs in the country,” the mayor added. “He deserves a large share of credit for city bond rating upgrades over the past 30 years.”

New York received its most recent upgrade on March 1, 2019, when Moody’s Investors Service elevated the city’s general obligation rating to Aa1.

Anders was instrumental in establishing the New York City Transitional Finance Authority and the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corp. “The sale of bonds by TFA and HYIC were groundbreaking, and paved the way for similar financings nationally,” de Blasio said.

In addition, Anders built out the city’s retail bond sale component.

“We invented the retail order period, basically, in the 1990s,” Anders said on a Bond Buyer podcast in 2017. “Others had done it but not systematically. It came out of our periodic request for proposals from underwriters where in part, we asked for new ideas.

“Several of the strong retail firms had suggested if New York City could lead and try this out, it could really be a benefit. So it’s been a foundation of all our bond issues,” Anders said. “It basically puts a discipline on the market.”

Anders also received the inaugural Jim Lebenthal Infrastructure Champion Award at the 2015 Bond Buyer National Outlook Conference. Lebenthal was a municipal bond pioneer whose radio and television advertisements helped popularize tax-exempt securities.

“Alan has been such a supporter of New York City for so many years," Alexandra Lebenthal, Jim’s daughter and the chief executive at Lebenthal & Co. until 2017, said at the time.

Anders was also chairman of the debt and fiscal policy committee of the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, and chaired the municipal market committee of the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities.

In addition, he was the executive director of the Commission on Governmental Efficiency and Economy, a civic watchdog organization funded by business leaders in his native Baltimore.

Before arriving at OMB, Anders was a senior investment banker at JPMorgan — before its merger with Chase — responsible for U.S. tax-exempt municipal market public finance transactions.

Anders graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland School of Law. He had a passion for movies and learned French so he could enjoy his favorite films in their original language.

He is survived by his wife, Suzi.

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