Nunes: A Career in Calculating Risk


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When he was a kid, he wanted to grow up and be a pilot or a race car driver. “Something with speed,” said Daniel Nunes with a laugh. “I liked risk.” Fast forward to today, and you’ll find his 25-year career in banking still about taking risks, albeit the right kind.

Nunes, who is the Credit Risk Manager with First Tennessee Bank’s Franchise Finance group, an entity that provides financing to franchisees, franchisors and restaurant chains, says taking some risk is part of the job. “The easiest thing to do is to say no,” he said of approving transactions. “Then you’re right 100% of the time. We get paid to take risk, to make a return. Sometimes you have to take the risk, but it is a calculated one.”

Nunes definitely has had the opportunity to evaluate some deals. After graduating college, he was recruited by Chemical Bank into the credit training program. 

“I just liked credit,” he said. “Every deal was different. When I was doing C&I, I Iearned early that every transaction was unique and every borrower had a different story.”

His résumé includes tenure at names like Wells Fargo and Bank One, but his first exposure to the franchise sector came when he was recruited into the structure group (ultimately sponsor finance) at GE Capital Franchise Finance in 2005.  He also has a real estate background and “GE was doing sale/leasebacks, and a lot of customers had real estate.” It was a fit. 

When GE Capital’s portfolios were sold in 2016, GE colleague Todd Jones was recruited to launch a franchise group with First Tennessee Bank. “I was looking for my next step, and Todd picked the team he wanted to have,” said Nunes. “We took a portfolio and had to optimize it. It’s been a great two years.”

And while he learned a lot at GE, and credits the organization for just that, he knew there were GE processes they could change at their next venture. 

At GE, “someone in credit was the last person you talked to,” he said. The relationship manager had the deal, and pushed it to the underwriter to make it work. 

“We flipped that here,” says Nunes. “I’m engaged with the relationship managers right away and I look at the transactions up front. When they go back to the borrower and have that conversation, it is more as an advisory role. When we come back with a term sheet, we can execute on it.” 

Part of his experience includes the deals he shouldn’t have approved. “Not every deal worked out over the years,” he said. “You look back. That's a learning experience. But I think I’ve been fortunate in making decisions overall."

"When you are working with a borrower, you can get a feel for character,” he added, and that takes years of experience. 

“Some of it shows up in diligence and other assessments you make along the way that help gage your credit decision.”

That assessment is all part of the puzzle, said Nunes. “I’m never bored. Every deal is different and I learn something new from each one.” You can reach him at DNunes@firsttennessee.com.

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