CFO of the Year Awards 2020

Andre Douzdjian – San Diego Association of Governments

   Winner: Government Agency

As chief financial officer of SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments, Andre Douzdjian provides a consistently high level of excellence, demonstrated through sound financial management with intelligent risk taking and empowerment opportunities for his staff. He is CFO of the Year in the Government Agency category. “It’s a big honor and privilege to win the award,” Douzdjian said. “I’ve won some other awards and recognition, but this one is a little more special to me because it’s the work I’ve done as a CFO, day in and day out. It’s unfortunate it happened over COVID. It would have been great to see and receive the award with my peer group.”

SANDAG is a transportation and planning agency that serves as the forum for decision-making among the 18 cities and the county government within the San Diego region. It builds consensus; makes strategic plans; obtains and allocates resources; and plans, engineers, and builds public transportation. In 2019, Douzdjian helped position the agency to succeed in a rapidly changing transportation environment that historically had large funding fluctuations. A key part of his job is developing and implementing debt and investment strategies that deliver transportation projects and programs for the region in a fiscally sound and responsible manner. He is also responsible for budgeting and accounting for the agency, which includes preparing financial statements, reports and required audits. Douzdjian has developed a broad and deep network of financial experts including financial advisers, banking syndicates, auditors and attorneys who provide dedicated service and expert advice. However, Douzdjian’s own gut instinct and sense of timing have been particularly instrumental in successes achieved in 2019.

He led SANDAG to win the 2019 Bond Buyer Deal of the Year Award for the Far West Region for the issuance of Grant Receipt Revenue Bonds fully supported by federal Capital Investment Grant funds secured by SANDAG through a Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration. SANDAG is one of the first agencies to successfully securitize a New Starts Grant on a stand-alone basis in over a decade. While many advisers suggested an optional backing of the debt using local sales tax funds, Douzdjian was confident that the SANDAG team could effectively make the case for this federally backed deal. He supported and mentored a new team member as they explained the federal funding program and why the risk to investors was low. He ensured the team worked hard but also celebrated the success upon closing the deal. SANDAG’s innovative approach to financing the Mid-Coast trolley project has helped save millions of taxpayer dollars.

The 2019 Series A Taxable Refunding bond issuance resulted in more than $90 million in savings for the San Diego region. This refunding was initially considered due to SANDAG’s debt policy and market conditions that indicated potential substantial savings. However, due to volatility, a decision was needed very quickly. Douzdjian assembled a team in record time and championed the effort to deliver documents to the SANDAG Board of Directors for approval. While in New York for the investor presentations, he suggested the pricing date be moved up by a day. This idea resulted in an additional estimated pricing benefit of approximately $20 million.

In the workplace, Douzdjian empowers his employees and inspires them to take on stretch assignments. This includes challenging his team to successfully structure and communicate complex and innovative transactions such as the issuance of the Grant Receipt Revenue bonds. He has led employees by providing mentoring and cross training opportunities for staff within and between departments, facilitating job rotations and seeking out new ideas from the entire team. He fosters a team environment with a focus on meeting goals and requirements by working collaboratively regardless of job title or position.