In this interview, I spoke to Ted Lynch ’84, a Managing Director at Bank of America specializing in Restaurant Banking. We discussed everything from his days at Holy Cross to his adventure in Japan to the cyclical nature of banking.
Where are you originally from? Could you tell me a little bit about your pre-Holy Cross days?
I am originally from Canton, MA. My dad was a member of the class of 1953. I remember attending football games and tailgating with our family, although I often went to Boston College football games as well because my grandfather went there. However, when it came time to apply to colleges, Holy Cross had a reputation as a more demanding school, but it was true.
What did you study at Holy Cross? What activities did you enjoy as a student?
I was an economics major, but I loved history as well. I might have taken enough history classes to be at least a minor; Father Kuzniewski was a great professor! There was a student newspaper on campus called the Crusader. One time a writer got sick, and a friend asked me to fill-in and write a piece for the sports column. I just wrote a cynical, depreciating story that people seemed to enjoy. I was asked to come back to write the next week and the week after that. Before I knew it, I had written for the paper for all four years of college! I also played rugby.
Can you tell me how you got into finance?
During my senior year of college, I was thinking about going to law school. One of the Jesuits said to me, “Don’t you want to burn up some energy before going back to the books?” My roommate’s dad worked for Morgan Guaranty, which later became J.P. Morgan. The Japanese economy was booming at that time, and Morgan Guaranty was expanding in that region. There was a demand for English speakers to teach conversational and business English to the Japanese bankers. I decided to go to Tokyo. I was there for 11 months and had a blast teaching the Japanese about the U.S. banking system and how to speak English! After that experience in Japan, I knew that I was interested in a career in banking. I then worked at some smaller firms as a credit analyst and earned my MBA from Boston College. In 1992, I started to work at First National Bank of Boston, which was later acquired by Bank of America. I’ve been there ever since! Same address and everything!
Tell me about your time at Bank of America.
I started as a general commercial banker, and I worked with all different types of clients from specialty construction builders to lambskin importers, the sole designation for which was golf gloves. In 1996, I was asked to manage a McDonald’s specialty franchise loan program. At that time, the process of obtaining a loan took quite a while, so we deconstructed it and made it more efficient. We went to key decision-makers and evangelized how we wanted to make it easier for them to get a loan from us. If a loan application came in on a Monday, we could have the loan dispersed by Friday, which was unheard of at the time! We started with $145-150 million worth of loans in our portfolio and grew it to $1.8 billion. The average loan that we originated was $1.5 million. Today, I work on other restaurant financings by helping private equity firms to buy, sell, and consolidate stakes in restaurant franchises.
You have had quite the career. What was it like working through the dot-com bubble of the 90’s, the Financial Crisis of 2008, and now the Pandemic?
I’ve seen my share of business cycles. Rule no.1 is to know your customer. That should be everyone’s first rule! Management can make bad decisions. I’ve seen companies with large market caps like AT&T make poor strategic decisions. Xerox used to be a verb, but that’s not the case anymore, and they have been overcome by other technologies that strategically missed. Management and strategy matter! Understand your customer and know what they will do in times of crisis.
How did your lessons from Holy Cross help you in your career?
The economic theory that I was studying in the 1980s was derived from the 1970s inflation era. President Reagan came along in the ‘80s with a new way of thinking, and the theories changed. It was not about what I was taught, but rather the way it was taught. My time at Holy Cross made me more open-minded to opposing ideas. I learned to evaluate both sides of the argument. Today, I question policymakers’ ideas a lot more than when I was 20 years old.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Getting my golf scores down. Probably retired. I don’t think about it every day but every couple of days. I do love speaking to Holy Cross students, and I will always be a resource!
Do you have any advice for Holy Cross Students?
Career discernment! Start thinking about what you want to do as a freshman or sophomore. Don’t wait until you are a junior or senior or 29 years old. If you are interested in financial services, look into the four divisions of banking: retail banking, investment banking, wealth management, and wholesale banking. See what you might enjoy and have an informational interview with an alum. The more you think about what you want to do then the better fit that you will find. Networking is important, and getting help from someone internally at a company is valuable. Discern and network. Find something you love.
Edited by Joseph Barbieri