Insana’s Message to Tribes: 'Put That Money to Work'


“If you have a recurring cash stream, you have to put that money to work.” That’s the message CNBC senior analyst Ron Insana thinks tribal leaders will take away from two panels that he is moderating at the Native American Finance Officers Association’s 30th annual conference in New Orleans on March 20.

“Some tribal communities have a great deal of investable cash, but they haven’t been fully apprised of all investment opportunities,” said Insana, who will moderate panels on markets and investing, and on banking in today’s credit climate.

He expects that his two panels, which feature such finance professionals as Paul Critchlow, vice chairman of municipal markets for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Anthony Mallott (Tlingit Nation-Eagle Tribe), chief investment officer and treasurer of Sealaska Corp., will give conference attendees “different perspectives on the investment world” and will help tribal leaders improve their returns on their portfolios.

Distressed real estate and equity (stock) investments in companies are two of the investment vehicles he is touting for tribes.

Sealaska is one firm that he said “is considered further along in developing investment strategies.”

Over the next 30 years, he thinks tribes will “develop an eye toward customer focus” as well as “products that solve problems.” Distressed RE is one area that promises “a reasonable rate of return at relatively low risk.”

The United States “is in pretty good shape” for the next 30 years, and Insana expects “a whole host of opportunities” for tribes going forward.

Insana said he has covered tribal finance “at the margins” for a couple of decades, since the boom in Indian gaming. Since then he has reported on tribal tax issues.

One area he said might be ripe for Indian finance is real estate development. Tribes generally pay no federal taxes, but they can use the depreciation benefit to “lever (money) in an extremely aggressive way” and at the same time provide much-needed housing for tribal members.

Insana was invited to the conference by NAFOA president William “Bill” Lomax, a member of the Gitxsan Nation, through a mutual acquaintance. Besides his work on the cable television station, which he joined in 1991, he is also the author of several books on finance.