How college football shaped Philadelphia's new treasurer
Philadelphia's new city treasurer, Christian Dunbar, says he still carries an influential message from his college football career at Temple University through his professional life.
The quote written on the locker room wall of Temple’s practice facility in North Philadelphia read “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
“It’s definitely something I have taken with me in all of my roles,” said Dunbar, who had a heralded career at Temple from 2002 to 2005 where he played multiple positions including tight end, linebacker, strong safety and defensive end.
The former football standout must now tackle some of Philadelphia’s most pressing fiscal challenges as the city’s top fiscal officer, following a three year stint as deputy treasurer. Preparation for a potential economic downturn is among his chief responsibilities. He replaced Rasheia R. Johnson, who rejoined her previous firm, Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., as a managing director this summer.
Dunbar’s journey toward his new office in the Philadelphia Municipal Services Building has taken him around the globe. He is a grandson of the late former Liberian President William V.S. Tubman and lived in the African nation before immigrating to the United Kingdom at age nine shortly before a civil war broke out. After a short stint in Europe, Dunbar settled in the U.S. and excelled as a high school football player in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, to earn a scholarship at Temple.
Prior to joining Philadelphia as deputy treasurer in January 2016, Dunbar was a wealth manager with Wells Fargo Advisors where he managed investments and credit products for high-net worth individuals, institutions and public entities. Dunbar said nearly five-year financial advisor career at Wells Fargo prepared him well for the responsibilities of a city treasurer, which includes overseeing all bond sales and managing a $9 billion debt portfolio.
“As a wealth manager you have to build up a lot of relationships,” said Dunbar, who was named a captain and team MVP during his final football season at Temple. “That plays a large role in a position like treasurer.”
Among Dunbar’s goals as treasurer are to upgrade the city’s technology, crafting a more robust investor outreach and enhancing communication with employees about financial literacy. He also wants to continue Mayor Jim Kenney administration’s efforts preparing for the next recession by building up a rainy day fund.
“The city is adequately preparing got the worst case scenario,” said Dunbar, who has presented at conferences in the U.S., Canada, Africa, and Europe on financial topics that include capital market development, emerging market risk and Environmental Social & Governance impact.
Philadelphia general obligation bonds are rated A by S&P Global Ratings, A2 by Moody’s Investors Service and A-minus by Fitch Ratings. Fitch assigns a positive credit outlook while Moody’s and S&P have the city at stable.
Dunbar’s tenure as treasurer kicked off with an Aug. 1 $293 million GO bond sale generating strong investor demand with retail and institutional orders more than 10 times oversubscribed. Ahead of the transaction, Fitch, S&P and Moody’s all credited Philadelphia with establishing strong financial management through improved reserve levels and for making progress an underfunded pension system. Dunbar sees the successful borrowing as a testament of momentum spearheaded by his predecessor that he will look to forge ahead while always keeping in mind the possible economic headwinds ahead.
“Any time you are 10 times oversubscribed it is an indicator that investors have a long-term positive impact on Philadelphia,” he said. “The fiscal policies of the last few years have been positive for the market.”