Charting a New Course:
Q & A with Kimberly Lyons, BA ’02, MPA ’04
Vice President, Credit Risk Management – Municipal Finance
Dexia Credit Local
As Kim Lyons, a sociology major, was about to begin her senior year at UAlbany, an uncertain economy forced her to rethink her plans. She hadn’t considered grad school, until the events of 9/11 made her realize finding a job might be much more difficult than she had anticipated. Highly motivated to make herself more competitive in the job market, Kim entered Rockefeller College and set out in a new direction.
How did you go from sociology to public finance?
Kim: September 11th happened at the start of my senior year. That changed everything, including the economy and the job outlook. Everyone thought that it would be so easy to get work after we graduated, but the world changed for us on 9/11. I had started an internship in the New York State Assembly. During my internship, I met some Rockefeller students who spoke very highly of the College’s MPA program. Before that, I had no thoughts of going to graduate school, but at that point I realized I needed a back-up plan. I applied to Rockefeller and was accepted. I took a public finance course with Professor David Liebschutz. He opened my eyes to the possibilities of having an MPA, working in the private sector and utilizing a background in public finance. He invited Robin Prunty of Standard & Poor’s to speak to us. She gave us insight into rating agencies, bond insurance firms, and all the opportunities that would be available to us. That was really the pivotal point in my time at Rockefeller, when everything changed direction for me and put me on the path to where I am now. One of the companies Robin mentioned was the first company I worked for after grad school, Financial Guaranty Insurance Company (FGIC).
How did you come to Dexia?
Kim: Dexia Credit Local is a French and Belgium investment bank with a large portfolio of US municipal bonds. I was given the opportunity to join their credit risk management team as a VP and jumped at the chance. At Dexia I get to see more of the lower rated municipal market, the credits that really have problems that require strong analysis skills and quick action. I was ready for a new challenge and the opportunity to learn the banking side of credit risk management also intrigued me. Before Dexia, I was at Moody’s Investor Service for 9 years and I wouldn’t change anything about my time spent there. My time at Moody’s was great and provided me with the foundation I needed to be a good credit analyst. The US municipal bond market has so many different participants and perspecitves, it is worthwhile for any analyst to make sure they have a varied and diverse experience.
What are your current responsibilities at Dexia Credit Local?
At Dexia I am responsible for the active management and review of a very large and diverse portfolio of Municipal bond credits with a focus on early identification of distressed or troubled credits.
What does your job entail on a day to day basis?
Similar to my last job at Moody’s, no two days are the same. Here at Dexia we are in constant monitoring mode. We have a lot of high-yield (lower credit quality) municipal debt, so the likely hood that there could be a problem or early sign of credit deterioration with one of our bonds is increased. On any day I can come in and be greeted with a headline about one of my credits, I have google alerts set up for anything, I’m constantly checking on financial reporting, economic data and the legislative process to see if anything will have a negative effect on my portfolio.