FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Ron Hymers
December 8, 2015
Hi yo Silver, away.
No. He’s not the Lone Ranger. He’s a loan arranger.
Throughout his post-banking life, Ron tells me his work was and still is focused on three things: raising capital, mergers & acquisitions, and advisory services. We swapped some stories about the market and he shared the green grapes story …
In the beginning, Ron Hymers, Principal and Managing Director at Forefront Advisors, recently folded into Corporate Capital Solutions, was born in Vancouver, mom was a homemaker (Ron is eldest of three) from Three Hills, AB, dad was from Norquay, SK – they met in Esquimalt when dad was in the navy; post-war he became an accountant and family lived in Vancouver. Ron went directly from high school to UBC where he earned a B.A. in Political Science. His marks were good, but not good enough to get into law school, so he joined the Royal Bank of Canada for a career in finance. After a long stint there he joined Credit Lyonnaiss, at that time France’s largest bank. Following that, Mutual Life, then part of the team that established E&Y’s corporate finance shop in Calgary, then Deloitte’s, then MNP as Partner until compulsory retirement time arrived in 2011. Forefront was formed and more recently, an association with others was formalized as Corporate Capital Solutions.
Ron is married to Deborah (retired from teaching in 2004, she founded and remains as the big-cheese at 'NSTEP a charity focused on food and nutrition). They have two grown children, one grandchild and another on the way. Ron explained that they both got accepted to do an MBA at Simon Fraser many years ago, but kids and raising kids postponed that – so they eventually did their MBA’s together. It was a three-year program at Nova Southeastern University that involved time on-campus a few weeks each year in Fort Lauderdale … training camp of Miami Dolphins [seems Ron is a fan!].
Why are you successful? “back to my ‘song inspiration’, I was determined I was going to be my own person. You have to take responsibility, learn and be collaborative.”
What has held you back? “in my banking career, lack of further education – an MBA. We did financing courses. I got the MBA at 50!”
Oh .. the green grapes story: a long time ago, when we only got green grapes during California’s growing season. A Vancouver customer approached Ron at Credit Lyonnaiss seeking letters-of-credit to fly in grapes from Chile. That adventure led to lots of business importing produce from Australia, Israel, and Chile of course …
I first crossed paths with Ron Hymers in 1999. I was new in town, prospecting for P3 projects, he was with MNP, prospecting for potential infrastructure projects in need of capital financing. These days we cross paths at the Shawnessy YMCA, and at Starbucks – where we conducted this interview.
How do you see your business – intermediary of corporate finance - going forward over the next quarter?’
… very busy, but for the wrong reasons. In the oil & gas services sector I spent a lot of time in, business is terrible, so refinancing based on reduced cash flows is both difficult and expensive. Most lenders aren’t lending, and those who are have tough terms. There is some debt forgiveness, lots of CCAA and re-financing. The challenge, the key, is to survive. Like the downturn in 2008, we’ll see some lenders leave this market, get out of the sector or disappear altogether [eg: GMAC, GE]
And over the next five years?
… I can’t tell you. If the economy and oil patch strengthen we’ll see lots of lenders back in the market. In terms of how business is done, I don’t see any big changes coming. It’s a real relationship thing – creating relationships.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
... I like to deal with clients prepared to take advice, and implement it. I’m not a price-shopper. I want good service, and products, at a fair price.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Ron Hymers, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… experience and reputation. Over forty years' experience in capital markets – and a great referral list of happy clients …
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… professional/collaborative. I love meeting people. Some people are a fit, some aren’t!
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… not much these days. But still, worrying about my clients – and where the next deal is coming from. We eat what we kill, don’t get paid until we complete transactions …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… a defining moment – a song. God Bless The Child by Blood, Sweat and Tears. That powerful lyric has inspired me: “I’m going to make it on my own”. And Allan Side, my boss at Mutual Life – gave lots of latitude to do things as you thought they should be done.
Work-life balance – do you have it?
… now? Yes. I used to be, of course, at the beck and call of clients and staff. I traveled most weeks. I’m a ‘million-miler’ with Air Canada.
… golf and tennis [Ron’s wife Deborah, once a ranked junior, rarely allows Ron to win a set], travel to California and Maui. I used to run but now my back and hips have me sticking to the treadmill at the Y.
What do you read?
… fiction. I like spy novels. Like writing of Clive Cussler and Ted Bell.
… we’re a one car family. 2013, I think, Nissan Rogue.
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