Washington Mutual, the Seattle-based retail bank, has hired Steve Lobo as the company's senior vice-president and treasurer. Lobo, previously the risk watchdog at American Express, will be responsible for enterprise-wide treasury management functions, including market risk analytics, treasury operations, cash management and integrated responsibility for capital markets.Lobo joins Washington Mutual from American Express Financial Advisors (AEFA), where he served as treasurer and chief risk officer. In this position he was responsible for creating and building a risk management function after the company experienced significant losses in high yield securities and collateralised debt obligations (CDO). In 2001 American Express was forced to write down fair value losses to the extent of $826 million on account of investments in mezzanine and junior CDO tranches. The chairman of American Express, Kenneth Chenault, admitted at the time that his company did not fully comprehend the inherent risks of investing in a portfolio of CDOs.
AEFA had 11% of its roughly $32 billion portfolio invested in junk bonds and high-yield CDOs when it discovered the extent of its losses. It took steps to reduce that to 7%, which it said was in line with industry averages. About $403 million of the charge reflected the effect of higher default assumptions on the value of its CDOs, $344 million reflected losses taken on bonds sold to rebalance its portfolio and the remainder represented losses on related investments. The second-quarter loss came on the heels of a $182 million first-quarter pretax charge, also taken to cover the write-down and sale of high-yield investments.
Prior to American Express, Lobo served as senior vice-president of US Bancorp's treasury department, where he was responsible for asset and liability management, investment portfolio management, net interest margin analysis, securitisation activity and funding strategy.
He also worked as a derivatives products manager for the Northern Trust Company from 1993-1996; a financial economist in the Options and Equities Group of the Chicago Board of Trade from 1989-1993; and a financial analyst with Continental Bank.
In his new position Lobo will report to Tom Casey, Washington Mutual’s chief financial officer.
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