David Hitchcock Retires
David Hitchcock participated in S&P Global Ratings' Webinar on State Ratings and quietly retired at the end of the day. It was a silent send-off for a great analyst. Your correspondent checked in with him the very next day.
Mr. Hitchcock started working on Wall Street at EF Hutton & Company almost 45 years ago. The firm was renowned for its high quality research, which ran an award-winning advertisement campaign. The ads featured loud crowded bars, parties, and high end dining rooms, which fell silent when the person said, "My broker is with EF Hutton and Hutton says…(silence as everyone in the room bends an ear to listen)." Fade to black and voice says "When EF Hutton talks, people listen." EF Hutton advertisement He started in the business alongside the legendary Tom Swartz, Walter Carroll, and Robert "Bob" Muller.
Mr. Hitchcock spent 43 years and four months working at S&P. Standard & Poor's offices were located at 25 Broadway in lower Manhattan (facing the Bowling Green) which is where the old Cunard Shipping Line offices were located. Standard & Poor's had moved from the printing district at 345 Hudson Street in 1977 to the financial district. Brent Harries, president of S&P, had transformed the firm from a publishing shop into a financial ratings agency. Twenty years later, S&P moved to its present location at 55 Water Street in Manhattan.
When Mr. Hitchcock joined S&P, the ratings were published in the "Fixed Income Investor". Later, the rating reports were published in S&P's CreditWeek, which was printed in blue ink. Now, the S&P ratings and reports are available online at Ratings Direct.
"There were no computers when I started at S&P," Mr. Hitchcock recalled, adding, "We only had two Wang word processors. I started working in the special revenue group, which included all the sectors except hospitals and housing. I worked on tax increment financings, sales tax and gas tax deals, airports and seaports. Then, later, I worked on G.O. ratings, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Detroit.
"I visited all of the colleges. I remember interviewing my alma mater's president for a rating (he laughed) and I interviewed Harvard and Stanford. I interviewed small colleges and small airports, too," he said and paused. He added somewhat wistfully, "Now, everyone is specialized."
Indeed. S&P was the first rating agency to be organized by credit type rather than by geographic region. Moody's was a subsidiary of the publishing house Dunn & Bradstreet and its regional offices did all of the different types of credits. S&P's approach really gained popularity under S&P President H. Russell Fraser, when its power utility team (under Alan Spen) was able to quickly identify local trends that had important national implications. Mr. Hitchcock noted that S&P's local government ratings are brought before a national ratings committee.
"I've been very happy at S&P," Mr. Hitchcock said. "People tend to stay for long careers. There is some ability to move around within S&P, which gives people more perspectives."
What does he see as being the biggest risk, now? "A major risk is with the new people who have seen credits growing 6% during the good times and expect to see them to continue to be strong. They don't see a 5% or 10% decline if we have a recession. While the places with no growth may continue to have no growth during tough times," he answered, adding "The temptation is think the strong credits won't suffer more during a downturn."
Who does he credit for helping his career? "Hyman Grossman at S&P was a mentor for me. He worked on the New York City bankruptcy. Dick Larkin was a major inspiration. I learned a lot as a past Chair of MAGNY. I also learned from so many people including, Mark Tennenhaus, Robert Chamberlin and Steve Rosen."