John Greenwood, F04
John Greenwood, F04, is the director of infrastructure and energy finance at Citigroup. Previously, he was director of export and agency finance at Citi. He has worked at Citi for the past eight years, leading the origination and execution of infrastructure and structured finance transactions, primarily in Latin America.
John has executed corporate and project finance transactions for both sovereign and private-sector clients in a wide range of industries, including telecom, power, industrials, oil and gas, and financial institutions. Many of these transactions have been awarded "Deal of the Year" recognition by leading international finance and trade publications.
Before joining Citi, John spent four years at Merrill Lynch, where he worked in asset management, and then as a manager of European business development in Merrill Lynch's corporate strategy group in London and Paris. He then earned his Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at The Fletcher School, where he concentrated on international business relations and international monetary policy. During his time at Fletcher, he was also a teaching assistant to Walter B. Wriston Professor of International Finance & Banking Laurent Jacque.
Fletcher School student Varun Hallikeri, F12, spoke to John about his education at Tufts, career growth at Citi, infrastructure opportunities in Latin America, and advice for young graduates in the light of the global financial crisis.
You have had a career in finance for close to 12 years now. Looking back, how has your education at The Fletcher School helped you in your growth in the financial sector?
John Greenwood (JG): After my undergraduate studies, I joined Merrill Lynch (ML) in their Junior Executive Training (JET) program where I worked for two years across different functional teams. When I finished the program, ML had entered into a joint venture with HSBC Bank to create an online trading platform and I moved to London and then to Paris to develop this business.
In 2002, when I decided to pursue my master's, I wanted to do something different from a traditional M.B.A. to differentiate myself from a general finance professional in the realm of the emerging markets. I chose the master's program at The Fletcher School as it had depth in both finance and macroeconomic issues. With prior on-the-job training in mainstream Wall Street finance for four years, I looked at this education effectively as a specialization in finance where I could further pursue my interests in economic development and emerging market finance. In hindsight, I believe that this transition was very fluid, thanks to my Fletcher education and the exposure I got at Tufts. I delved into international finance topics, including currency convertibility, international events such as crises in Latin America and Asia, and similar issues. All this gave me a diverse and rich perspective on doing business in an international context, which has stood me in good stead over the last eight years.
What has been the most satisfying and challenging project in your career?
JG: I worked on a deal with Digicel, a wireless telecommunications company in the Caribbean and Central America, to develop a green-field wireless operation in Haiti. This transaction is a classic case study for risk management in emerging markets.
As it was a green-field project, we used a project finance structure in which the reliance was on the cash flows from the project to repay the debt with limited recourse to the sponsors. As lenders, we sought security interests over the physical assets of the project. In Haiti, the legal system is based on the French civil law system but there was very limited precedent in the Haitian legal system for perfecting security for a financing of this size.
We also were faced with currency volatility risk given that most of the revenues of the company were generated in local currency but the project finance debt was denominated in U.S. dollars. In Haiti's context, there are very limited opportunities to hedge the volatility of the Haitian gourde against the U.S. dollar. To mange this risk, we devised a mechanism whereby the debt was partially serviced with revenues generated in hard currency from receivables due from international telecommunication carriers.
At Citi, you are focusing on Latin America. In your opinion, what are the key growth markets in this region today and what is driving this growth?
JG: Each individual market in Latin America represents an opportunity depending on the type of investment, the risk profile, and potential returns. In certain, more developed markets like Chile, there are well established property laws, a sophisticated local capital market, and an educated workforce that make it a stable environment to attract foreign investment. In other countries, such as Columbia and Peru, the case for growth is more pronounced, with a growing middle class and wealth of natural resources. Infrastructure is underdeveloped to serve the needs of growing domestic consumption as well as export demand, which means that there are many prospects for investment. With the improving security situation, there is an enormous potential to invest in oil, coal, and mining resources, which have so far remained underdeveloped.
Besides these, an obvious market for growth is Brazil, which is readying itself to host the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016.
We have been seeing a growing presence of China in resource-rich Latin America. Also, China has been pushing yuan-denominated loans in the region. Do you see this as potentially crowding out opportunities for U.S.-based private banks in this region?
JG: I don't see this as affecting U.S.-based lending to Latin America. Chinese investments in this region are closely tied to Chinese interests—in terms of supporting Chinese supply contracts and securing the export of natural resources to China. Also, while Chinese investment is growing, it is still a small fraction of the overall investment in the region.
In light of the global financial crisis, recent graduates and current students are skeptical about the financial sector and future opportunities. What advice do you have for them?
JG: Nobody can deny the role of the financial system, its institutions and culture, in the drivers that led to the economic downturn in the U.S. Important lessons were learned regarding the interconnections between government policy, consumer education, and financial sector motivations in everything from home ownership to the decision to take on a student loan. This probably sounds like 101 concepts at any Fletcher finance course but that is something that makes the Fletcher experience so valuable—a study of the bigger picture and how government, private sector, and individuals interact to form a system that can be uncertain and volatile.
Tufts and Fletcher students are well positioned for financial-sector opportunities in emerging markets. Capital markets are less developed in these economies. We have the opportunity to study OECD countries and understand what has worked and what has not. With these insights, we have a chance to develop more stable and resilient capital and financial market models that suit the emerging markets in the coming decades.
Interviewer Varun Hallikeri studied law in India and is currently a graduate student at The Fletcher School, Tufts University. Prior to Fletcher, he worked at The Boston Consulting Group and Clifford Chance LLP. At Fletcher, he is concentrating on infrastructure finance and development.