LOS ANGELES — Urban Futures Inc., the company acting as financial advisor to San Bernardino during its bankruptcy, hired John Phan as a principal in the firm's Orange, Calif., office.
Phan most recently worked as a vice president for San Francisco-based investment bank De La Rosa & Co. before its merger with Stifel Financial Corp.
"I had been looking for someone of John's caliber for nine months," Michael Busch, president and chief executive officer for Urban Futures' Southern California office said in an interview Thursday. "When he became available, we saw it would be a good fit."
Other than a stint at Los Angeles-based investment bank Wedbush, Phan has worked for De La Rosa over the course of his decade-long career.
He was co-lead banker at De La Rosa's charter school and higher education groups and served as group manager for the firm's Los Angeles analytics team, according to that company's website. He was also credited as lead banker for the first stand-alone, start-up charter school financed with long-term bonds in the nation.
The 40-year-old Walnut Creek-based company has found that its' public agency clients "are facing significant infrastructure and operational funding needs and are increasingly seeking UFI's advice on how to navigate these challenging times," Busch said. Phan will help the firm meet the growing demand for experienced financial advisory services, he said.
Urban Futures has worked with government agencies throughout California including cities, water agencies, school districts and other special districts. The firms divisions include Isom Advisors, UFI Public Finance Group and UFI Public Management Group.
Most recently, the firm has been in the spotlight for its work on the San Bernardino bankruptcy.
In addition to consulting work on the bankruptcy, Busch provided several financial consultants to work full-time with the city's finance team in April 2013 following complaints from creditors that the city wasn't providing documents necessary to the discovery process.
The Southern California office also specialized in working with redevelopment agencies. As a result, it's now busy helping the successor agencies to the RDAs that were dissolved through legislation in February 2012 with the process of winding down.
Phan "has very strong analytical skills, which allows us to look at the more complex structured transactions that are going to be necessary going forward," Busch said.
Busch said he and Phan are going to work with cities in developing infrastructure financing districts — a vehicle created through legislation to replace the economic development benefits of the defunct RDAs.
San Bernardino, currently undergoing a confidential mediation program with creditors, was the first Chapter 9 bankruptcy for which the firm has acted as financial advisor, Busch said.
That city along with Stockton, currently in bankruptcy, and Vallejo, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2011, but is again in financial distress, are microcosms of nationwide trends resulting from increased pension costs, Busch said.
Financial complications faced by cities dealing with rising pension costs and unmet infrastructure needs, create an opportunity for financial advisors like Urban Futures to come up with strategies that help cities move past these challenges, he said.
"Many cities need to review their service delivery and best practices to see what can be adjusted," Busch said.
Phan's skills will enable the firm to better advise clients who need restructuring on the capital side, he said.
He also brings experience in private higher education, a new niche for the firm, which has a long track record with K-12 in the state.
"I think financial advisory services go beyond understanding the market and the financial structures of municipal bonds," Busch said. "We often have to understand the impacts and expectations of financing and what it does to the budget and service delivery."
Urban Futures is structured so it can "dissect a budget as well as set up financing," he said.