Name: Brent Hazzard
Title: Head of Structured Finance, Citizens Commercial Banking
Experience: 30 years
Citizens Bank’s Brent Hazzard first got a taste for commercial banking at the renowned Shawmut Bank. He later moved onto GE Capital, helping build its midmarket lending practice and working in its distressed debt group. He also has some Connecticut roots, having graduated from the University of Connecticut and earned his MBA from the University of Hartford. In addition to working with companies across Citizens’ footprint, Hazzard also teaches MBA-level courses as an adjunct at UConn’s School of Business. When he does manage to nab some down time, he enjoys skiing with his family.
Q: What kinds of deals are you expecting to do here and how are you sourcing those deals?
A: Types of deals are going to range, and we really have two avenues for how we go to the market.
The common theme is lifecycle lending. We believe customers have peaks and troughs, so Citizens is here to help them throughout their entire life and provide products so we can help the client and help retain the client at our institution. Given that strategy, I work with various teams and say, “Hey, if somebody hits a bump in the road, let’s talk about it,” or maybe we’ll talk about a company that’s doing really well and we can work with our capital markets team and come up with a revised cap structure that will help them grow even more.
Then there’s the external process I work with, and that’s how we bring new clients in. It really boils down to three channels: we focus on distressed oriented private equity funds, we focus in the investment banking community in New York City and elsewhere, and then we focus with the advisory community. Each one of those channels provides certain types of opportunities. They can provide regular opportunities like an M&A transaction, and we have a great leveraged finance business in the bank, so if we sourced that opportunity through an adviser, we would work with our leveraged finance group.
We also work with companies that are hitting a bump in the road and maybe had to go through bankruptcy, so we’ll finance them as they come out of bankruptcy, so now the balance sheet’s been fixed, they’ve adjusted operations, and there’s a good business there, so we’ll work with those folks as well.
Q: Can you discuss one or two interesting or noteworthy trends in your corner of the banking world?
A: A lot of companies are trying to figure out how we can do more with less, how to be more efficient and really leverage the capital that they have, and so sometimes we’ll see a growth company and their sales are really strong and they don’t want to give up much equity because when you get to a certain point, you may have to bring in additional capital and depending on the structure of the company, you may have to bring in new equity.
Other times, as a lender, you may look at that and say, well wait a second, we can structure something where we can give you more capital as a lender to meet that growth need and put a structure around it that makes sense for the bank, but also gives the customer the ability to grow, rather than have them go out and go to a third party for that money. I’m seeing more stories like that, with people saying, “We’re doing really well, so what can you do for us?”
Q: What are your thoughts about the next generation coming into banking? What critical skills do those up-and-coming bankers need? Where are business schools picking up the slack and where could they do a little better?
A: Having taught [at UConn] for about 10 years as an adjunct, there’s a common set of skills that I really focus on working with the students on and to some degree, there’s a little bit of a deficit before they get to graduate school. There’s really three things:
No. 1 is team skills, really working together as a team, and I notice a lot of programs will say, “OK, we need teams of five, you get five together.” My orientation is totally different. I randomly put them together with people they don’t know – because that’s the way the working world is. You’re going to be put together on a team with people, how are you going to interact? How are you going to communicate your point?
No. 2 is really around presentation skills. Most folks get very nervous standing up in front of people, right? In the class I teach, every other week, each student is up standing in front of the class doing something, and it’s torturous for a lot of them, but generally they really appreciate it because they know when they get into the field, that skill set will carry them a long ways and it gives them a little comfort, if you will.
And finally, this is the one that I’m really excited about, is challenging the status quo. Because nobody wants to challenge their boss, right? But the reality is, the boss has hired you for the intellect you have, for your drive, so if there’s a problem you see at work, your job is not just to identify the problem. Your job is to identify, that’s the problem, given what I know, here’s the solution, here are my thoughts. That critical thinking skill set is a challenging one to bring out, but we try to bring it out in the classroom and we have a lot of fun with it.
Hazzard’s Top Five Skiing Destinations:
- Mount Snow
- Mount Sunapee
- Waterville Valley