Lessons of a lifetime: Former Virginia Treasurer Ganeriwala looks back

BY SourceMedia | MUNICIPAL | 08/11/22 12:49 PM EDT By Chip Barnett

When Manju Ganeriwala looks back at her time as Virginia state treasurer, she can be proud of steering the state's finances and fiscal health through two economic downturns and a pandemic.

Ganeriwala recently retired after more than a decade as state treasurer.

Ganeriwala was treasurer of the commonwealth from January 2009 until June when she chose to retire.

She was first appointed as treasurer by Gov. Tim Kaine in 2009 and reappointed by Gov. Robert McDonnell in 2010, Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2014, Gov. Ralph Northam in 2018 and Gov. Glenn Youngkin in 2022.

Her duties included overseeing the issuance of bonds and management of state debt, the investment of public funds, provision of banking services and administration of the state's insurance and unclaimed property programs.

"During my time, I oversaw issuance of over $32.6 billion in bonds ? $22.6 billion in new money bonds for financing infrastructure projects and $10 billion in refunding bonds for capturing $1 billion in net present value savings," she told The Bond Buyer.

Virginia's general obligation bonds are gilt-edged, rated triple-A by Moody's Investors Service (MCO), S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings.

Ganeriwala also served as chair of the state Treasury Board.

"I am appreciative of the five governors who appointed me and gave me the opportunity to serve," she said. "When I first started working, the public sector was not on my radar. Once I got into it, however, I was fascinated by how policies were formulated and their impacts on citizens."

Prior to her appointment as treasurer, she served as deputy secretary of finance in the Kaine administration, chief financial officer for the state Department of Medical Assistance Services and associate director for the state Department of Planning and Budget.

"At first I thought I might work here for a few years and then move on back to the private sector," she said. "But I really got interested in how governments work in this country and how the three branches of government work with each other. I just got fascinated and decided to stay and here I am almost 37 years later."

Ronald Tillett, a former Virginia treasurer and finance secretary, has known and worked with Ganeriwala for more than 30 years.

"Manju provided strong leadership to several Virginia governors and the Legislature over her long career in Virginia government," said Tillett, a managing director at Raymond James & Associates and head of its mid-Atlantic public finance practice.

"As treasurer, she provided steady, conservative, and thoughtful guidance to the governors and legislatures in issuing and managing the commonwealth's debt, short term investments, and unclaimed property programs. She will be missed," he said.

Ganeriwala noted that her tenure as state treasurer was bookended by two extreme economic events with a pandemic in between.

"When I took office in January 2009, we were in the midst of a financial meltdown, caused by the subprime crisis, which led to two years of negative revenue growth and a long recession. Compare that to recent years, where Virginia's revenue grew by double digits over the last two fiscal years," she said.

"We have not had double-digit growth in revenue during the last two decades. I don't want to say that it was bad luck that I had such extremes to deal with. After all, these situations have made my experience even more enriching," she said.

"One of things that I had to do was manage through recessionary times ? making decisions that were scary to make at the time, but in retrospect benefitted the state. We held certain securities (in our Securities Lending portfolio) whose values had plummeted because of market disruptions and ratings downgrades," she said.

"I was faced with having to sell those securities in compliance with the Treasury Board-adopted investment policy at that time and incur a loss of approximately $300 million during my first few months in the office," she said. "Instead, based on my gut feeling, I decided to hold on to those securities and thankfully all the securities but one recovered their value with a minimal loss."

In 2018, under her guidance, the state undertook a new disclosure initiative to improve transparency, launching VirginiaBonds.com, VCBAbonds.com, VPBAbonds.com and VPSAbonds.com to provide investors with a free tool to obtain information on state bond programs.

Ganeriwala served as president of the National Association of State Treasurers in 2013 and as chair of the State Debt Management Network in 2015 and as senior vice president of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers in 2022. She also served on the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board and was its vice chair in 2020.

"Manju is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to the members of the National Association of State Treasurers, including myself," Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn Wooden told The Bond Buyer.

"Her breadth of experience and her desire to mentor others made NAST a better organization and the state of public finance sounder," said Wooden, the current president of NAST.

As president of NAST, sheadvocated for preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. During 2012 to 2014, the White House and the Congress were considering proposals to either totally eliminate or limit tax exemption for munis.

Gary Hall, partner and the head of infrastructure and public finance at Siebert Williams Shank & Co. and former chair of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, said Ganeriwala was a force for consensus building.

"One of the benefits that Manju has in her experience has been working in different administrations, with different parties ? and I saw her ability to dance on a needle and to build consensus first-hand when were at MSRB," Hall told The Bond Buyer. "She was very, very good at convincing her colleagues to see different perspectives. She really is a phenomenal listener."

Ganeriwala, who was born and raised in India, got her start working in the private sector for the East Ohio Gas Co., during which she gained experience in strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions analyses and long-range forecasting.

She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Bombay and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

She noted that she worked with a great team at Treasury. She found the work very enjoyable and rewarding.

"I was very fortunate to have good role models and mentors along the way," she said. "And I loved teaching and mentoring staff, including encouraging women in public finance. It is important for each one of us in public service to mentor colleagues we work with to develop new leaders."

She is happy to see that many women play important roles in the public finance industry.

"I have met the smartest and most intelligent women that work in this industry and have learnt a lot from them," she said. "I support Women in Public Finance and have spoken at many of their meetings around the country."

Ganeriwala has received numerous awards during her career. She is the 2009 recipient of the YWCA's Outstanding Women Award in Government and is a 2013 Toll Fellow.

She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Financial Accounting Foundation.

Since she was already thinking about retiring, she felt that that it was the right time to do it.

"I just didn't feel that I had another four years in me," she said. "It was time to move on to the next phase of my life."

She says family has become her number one priority now.

"It's time to focus on family and self," she said. "I was just tired of working 60-plus hours a week, week after week, year after year."

She plans to pursue some personal hobbies like hiking and getting into an exercising routine to build up stamina. She would also like to get involved with community organizations and serve on some professional boards.

Ganeriwala, who is married, has two sons and a granddaughter and plans to spend more time with them as well as with her immediate family and husband's family who all live in India.

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Lower-quality debt securities generally offer higher yields, but also involve greater risk of default or price changes due to potential changes in the credit quality of the issuer. Any fixed income security sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss.

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