The Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA)’s 30th anniversary conference in New Orleans on March 20 and 21 will seek to present a complete overview of American Indian finance as it exists today. It will also try to predict what the next 30 years will bring.
Nearly 100 speakers will present at the approximately 30 sessions and panels, including the Nobel Prize–winning economist Myron Scholes, CNBC analyst Ron Insana, and top tribal leaders like Jamestown S’Kallam tribal chairman W. Ron Allen. There will also be executives from Fortune 500 firms, including Paul Critchlow, vice chairman of public markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
At least 600 people and possibly more than 700 were expected to attend the anniversary meeting, said NAFOA President William “Bill” Lomax, a member of the Gitxsan Nation.
“It takes a lot of work,” he said of assembling the speakers and sessions. “We have a particularly good caliber of people we’ve been able to marshal for this event.”
Prior to the conference, Lomax was particularly looking forward to the last general session, a town hall meeting to address the upcoming generation of American Indian finance.
“There’s going to be plenty of change—change in the way tribes will grow and adapt successfully,” he said. He predicted in particular that gaming revenues may not stay high forever, what “with more entrants into the gaming market and pressure from different sectors.”
To amass funds to try to duplicate the success they have had in gaming, energy and other areas, Lomax suggested, tribes should start to form sovereign wealth funds, if they haven’t already, and set aside a percentage of revenue or profit—perhaps 10 percent. In any event, he is optimistic of success. Currently, he said, there are a dozen tribes “in the billion-dollar range” (of assets under management). In the next 10 years, he expects that number to rise to 50.
Co-chairs of the meeting were Geoff Urbina, managing director, of KeyBanc Capital Markets, and Jerry Levine, executive partner at Holland & Knight LLP.