In Episode 17 of “5 Questions with the CEO,” General Joe Votel USA (Ret.) talks with BENS member Albert Tan, who takes us on a journey that began when at 11 years old, he and his family departed Taiwan bound for the United States. Albert’s parents traveled to the U.S., seeking the American dream of a life filled with limitless opportunities for their children. Don’t miss Tan and Votel talk about rising tensions between China and Taiwan, the importance of a stable financial system, giving back when blessed with great success, and the journey of a young boy who rose to achieve his parent’s dream.
Today, Albert Tan is a Partner / Co-Chair of the Fund Finance Executive Committee and Board of Directors at Haynes Boone. Albert has represented investment and commercial banks as agents and arrangers in more than 650 subscription-secured credit facilities with a total value of over 180 billion in Asia, the U.S., Europe, and in Latin America. The National Law Journal appointed him to a 35-person list of finance, banking, and capital market trailblazers in 2019. He made the “40 under 40” list by The Texas Lawyer and Dallas Business Journal, respectively, and “Best Lawyers under 40” by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. In 2021, was named a rainmaker by the Minority Corporate Council Association for outstanding leadership, passion, and dedication.
Listen in and learn more about the extraordinary journey of a man who started out delivering newspapers and watching his parents work backbreaking labor seven days a week to become a global corporate law figure.
Albert Tan is a Partner and Co-Head of the Fund Finance Practice Group at Haines Boone, LLP. He currently serves as a member of the firm’s (i) Executive Committee, (ii) Board of Directors, and (iii) Partners’ Compensation Committee. He formerly held other leadership positions within the firm, including served (a) as a member of the Appointments Committee, which appoints and oversees all of the firm’s strategic leadership and management roles, (b) as a co-chair of the Attorney Development and Diversity Committee, and (c) as a Co-Head of the International Practice Group, and spearheaded the launch of the Shanghai office.
During his career at the firm, Albert has represented investment and commercial banks, as agents and arrangers in more than 650 subscription secured credit facilities with total value of over $180 billion to Asia, US, Europe, Latin America and global real estate, infrastructure, debt, buyout and energy private equity funds, including structuring and documenting some of the first subscription financing to real estate private equity funds in Japan, Greater China, Singapore and Korea and to some of the largest global infrastructure funds and Asia-focused buyout funds; and during the global financial crises of 2007-2008, Albert was one of few fund finance attorneys who represented lenders in the successful enforcement of subscription financing defaults against PE funds and their investors.
In recognition of Albert’s efforts in the fund finance markets, The National Law Journal selected him to its inaugural 35 person list of Finance, Banking and Capital Markets Trailblazers in 2019, Euromoney Expert Guides, Euromoney Institutional Investor 2012, listed him as a “Leading Practitioner” in its Guide to Leading Practitioners: International Private Equity, United States, and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association recognized Albert as one of its 2021 MCCA Rainmakers for his outstanding leadership, business acumen, passion and dedication to proactive client development. Earlier in his career, Albert was also selected in “40 under 40” lists by The Texas Lawyer and Dallas Business Journal, respectively, and “Best Lawyers under 40” by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
Aside from maintaining an active law practice and serving in firm leadership, Albert volunteers his time in the legal and fund finance community, where he currently serves as a member of the US Advisory Committee and Asia Pacific Executive Committee of the Fund Finance Association (FFA), a Community Fellow at SMU Dedman School of Law and has served as a board director and executive council member of the Dallas Asian American Bar Association, Asian Pacific Interest Section of State Bar of Texas, and International Section of State Bar of Texas, respectively, and served as mentors to Asian Pacific American law students and young attorneys.
In recognition of his service to the legal community, he is a recipient of: (i) the “Justice Wellington Chew Award,” for the outstanding achievements, commitment, and leadership of a lawyer who has paved the way for the advancement of other Asian Pacific American attorneys and made substantial and lasting contributions to the APA legal profession, as well as the broader APA community (Asian Pacific Interest Section – State Bar of Texas, 2015); (ii) “Inspirational Leadership Award” (Dallas Asian American Bar Association, 2011); (iii) Outstanding Attorney Achievement Award” (SMU Dedman School of Law, AALSA, 2008-2009); (iv) “Council Member of the Year” (Asian Pacific Interest Section – State Bar of Texas, 2019) and (v) “Outstanding Member Award” (Dallas Asian American Bar Association, 2009).
Among the clients that Albert represents are: Bank of America, Bank of China, Bank of Communications, Bridge Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Cathay Bank, China Merchant Bank, Citibank, EBRD, Goldman Sachs Bank, HSBC Private Bank, Itaú Unibanco S.A., Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Mizuho Bank, Morgan Stanley, MUFG, Regions Bank, Signature Bank, SMBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, United Overseas Bank, US Trust, and Wells Fargo Bank.
From 1997 to 2000, Albert was based in Hong Kong, where he served a secondment as chief counsel for Caltex Corporation (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chevron Corporation), responsible for all Caltex legal affairs in Greater China, and worked on FDI projects in China and other parts of Asia.
Albert regularly makes presentations and serves as guest speaker and panelist for legal and business seminars on fund finance, private equity, and legal education, organized by, among others, Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, Private Equity International CFOs & COOs Forum, PERE CFOs & COOs Forum, PERE – Asia Summit, PERE – Japan Forum, PERE Global Investor Forum, PERE – North America Forum, Private Equity International – Global Alternative Investment Forum Japan, Privcap, US Real Estate Opportunity & Private Fund Investing Forum, FFA Asia Pacific Fund Finance Symposium (co-chair and steering committee member (2017-2020)), FFA Global Fund Finance Symposium, State Bar of Texas, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, American Bar Association, Bank of America, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation, Limited, Southern Methodist University Law Center, Southern Methodist University School of Business, Texas A&M University School of Law, Institute of International Research, Asia Law and Practice, Euromoney, China Law & Practice, Dallas Greater Chamber, Institutional Real Estate, Inc., and Strafford Publications.
Outside of law, Albert is a member of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS) and serves on the National Leadership Council and DFW Regional Leadership Council of San Diego State University and has served as board director and advisory board member to the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the Asia Society of Texas, respectively.
Business executives for national security welcomes you to five questions with the CEO, where BENS CEO, general Joe Votel, former commander of all United States Special Forces and forces in 21 countries in the Middle East and Asia, interviews top business leaders focusing on their stories, strategies, and real-world experiences. Here we want to know why they’re passionate about sharing their talents and insights to assist senior leaders in the national security enterprise as they solve some of our nation’s most pressing challenges and why they are part of a growing number of executives who understand that national security is everyone’s business.
General Joe Votel (00:44):
Welcome to the BENS podcast Five Questions with the CEO. Our guest today is Albert Tan partner and co-head of Fund Finance Practice Group at Haines and Boone, LLP. During his career at the firm, Albert has represented investment and commercial banks as agents and arrangers in more than 650 subscription, secured credit facilities with total value over 180 billion in Asia, U.S., Europe, and in Latin America. Albert, welcome. We’re very, very glad to have you today. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.
Albert Tan (01:17):
Thank you, general, appreciate the introduction.
General Joe Votel (01:20):
Let’s go ahead and get right into it. And let me start off with the first question here. So anyone who knows you, knows that you are an extraordinarily successful attorney. What I find most compelling is the personal journey that you took to get where you are today. You are 11 years old when you immigrated from Taiwan to the United States. Can you tell our listeners a bit about that experience and how it shaped you?
Albert Tan (01:42):
Thank you, general, yes our family journey is something that I think it certainly has shaped my life. We came to the United States my father, my mother, my two older sister, older brother, we immigrated to a suburb of Los Angeles in the summer of 1976. And my parents who have combined seventh grade education felt that the kids would have a better life and opportunity in the United States. And my father was a carpenter in Taiwan and my mother was a housewife. And at the time, 1976, my father was 50 years old. No language skills, no English skills. My mother actually taught my father how to read Chinese by helping him read the newspaper. So to think that my parents had the bravery, the courage to take the entire family without knowing anyone and move to the United States, to a city and start a new life puts a lot in perspective in terms of the United States and the opportunity it presents. So my parents opened up a grocery store to basically support the family and all the kids. We would work there on weekends. I started a paper route in elementary school as a way to, all hands on deck, if you will, kind of that mentality. And my father and mother worked seven days a week to supplement the income that we had from the grocery store. My mother would make Chinese snacks at home. And these were, you know, incredibly labor intensive, backbreaking work. And I saw my mother do that on a week in, week out basis. And seeing my father, aside from work, he basically made all the furniture in our house. We didn’t have much money and, and that was his way of providing for the family. So growing up in that environment, seeing the personal sacrifice and just, you know, kind of the day in day out hard work that it entails kind of instills basically you know, what work ethic means to each one of us kids who grew up in that environment. And we did everything right, so in the grocery store, we mopped floors, we cleaned the toilets, we washed vegetables you know, we did everything that was required of us. And thinking about how in one generation where we started to kind of where we are at now, not many countries can provide for that. So we’re incredibly humbled and grateful for the opportunity coming to the United States.
General Joe Votel (04:27):
Yeah, thanks for sharing that story. What a great American story that is here. And really wonderful to hear that. Today as as a dual citizen of Taiwan and the United States obviously the ongoing tensions between Taiwan and China are personal to, I would imagine to you. So I think our audience would be interested in learning more about your unique perspectives in this area. Can you share with us a bit about how you view the current state of affairs and what’s at stake here in this potential conflict?
Albert Tan (04:58):
It’s a very good question. It’s one that from my almost 30 years of law practice, my view has kind of evolved around kind of the China, Taiwan relationship. For the longest time, one of the largest investors in China are the Taiwanese expatriates, and a lot of folks do business within China. My family, my mother and father are both from China. They were part of the exodus from mainland China to Taiwan when the Civil War broke out. So for the longest time, we, I think us growing up there was always this feeling that someday, that hopefully there, there would be some reunification. But as time has passed having worked in China and having done business there, and having traveled in the region, you’re starting to see there is a difference in this, in the value of what Taiwan is teaching its people. And the same with China. And from my perspective, it’s something that it’s a very challenging issue. And you know, Taiwan is in a very difficult spot. It’s an island, tiny little island on its own, but it has a world class technology platform in TSMC, in the semiconductor space. Which we all know is critical in the kind of the current business environment and technology environment that we’re in, how critical that infrastructure is. And so it’s a very delicate balance. And I, you know, I struggle with it in the sense of is there a resolution in resolving the, the basic nationalistic side of the Chinese Communist party in their goal of reunifying Taiwan? And so yeah, it’s a very challenging issue and it’s one that I think I am certainly am monitoring very closely. I think the aggressive nature and the rhetoric coming out of the CCP certainly doesn’t help in terms of the perspective and the narrative. So yeah, it’s something that I’m very concerned about.
General Joe Votel (07:15):
Yeah. Thanks so much. I mean, what an extraordinary view that you have there on this whole situation. So if we could move forward, maybe to your legal career here. You have accomplished some remarkable things in your career to date. The National Law Journal selected you to a 35 person list of finance, banking, and capital market trailblazers in 2019. Then in 2021, you are named a rainmaker from the Minority Corporate Council Association for your outstanding leadership, passion and dedication. Can you talk a little bit about what drives you in your work and what concerns do you have as you look at the national security landscape as it relates to the work that you do today?
Albert Tan (07:58):
Yeah, thank you, general. I think what motivates me is really, I have wonderful clients with whom I not only have professional relationship, but personal relationship. And what drives me really is just providing them with the service that I feel they deserve. I’m always thinking about what can myself and my team do for their business so that the business can grow, can thrive. I place a lot of emphasis on what is it that we can do to help our clients succeed to be their trusted business advisor. Because if our clients don’t succeed, then really my practice and my team won’t succeed. So in terms of the impact on the national security, I think it really, it’s, you know, right now you may have read, there’s a lot of instability. There’s some banking turmoil in the United States and around the world. And while we have a very stable financial system the fact that we are experiencing kind of banking turmoil does impact our economy, right? So the instability that might drive our economy certainly would not be good. You know, any sense of chaos or instability would not be good for the United States. So I think, you know, from that perspective, it may not directly correlate in terms of what I do in the fund finance space, but just in a greater impact of the financial service industry in the financial industry. The stability of that is critical, and I think it’s very important. You know, people look to the United States as the leader in financial markets, we certainly wouldn’t want instability.
General Joe Votel (09:45):
Yeah. And it would probably interest you to know, and some of our members know, one of the areas that BENS has really focused on over the last year has been investigating ways that the U.S. Government can better leverage the capital markets for the investments that we need to maintain the role that we want to play in the world. You know, this is one of the very unique American advantages that we have are capital markets. And so you’re hitting on something I think that is extraordinarily important, not just for BENS, but in fact for the nation. So maybe as a result of your upbringing, you are someone who has been committed throughout your life to service and volunteerism. You volunteer your time in the legal and fund finance community. You’re a community fellow at Southern Methodist University, Edmond School of Law. You served as director and executive council member of the Dallas Asian American Bar Association. And most impressively, you have served as a mentor to Asian Pacific American law students and young attorneys. Why is it so important to give back and what would you say to young people about finding time to serve others outside of their work?
Albert Tan (10:54):
I am of the view that I have been incredibly fortunate. In my success, granted there was a lot of hard work involved, but it wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have, if I didn’t meet people along the way, mentors or just folks who gave me an opportunity who offered a helping hand as I was coming through the ranks. Because I didn’t know kind of the legal profession growing up. I think in a lot of ways opportunity comes based on exposure. You don’t know what you don’t know unless you meet with people who are able to open the world up for you. So I think I have benefited from incredible mentors and people who offered a helping hand. And so I’ve always felt that it’s important to pass it onwards to younger generation as an Asian American in the United States, in the legal profession, you don’t have as many senior members, senior partners in a big major law firm who are in the position of senior management. And I think it’s important to be visible and it’s important to volunteer and to participate in an organization so that it’s a way for people to see that, hey, this is something that is possible. So I view that as a bit of a responsibility as well, and I’ve met some incredible people along the way through that. And if my involvement or my giving back will impact someone’s life along the way, even if I don’t know it, that’s really what’s most important. It’s making sure that I pass it on just like others have helped me. And I want to make sure that I help others.
General Joe Votel (12:36):
That is such a great message of service to others, service to our communities, and ultimately service to the nation and using your platform or your position to kind of help provide opportunities for others. Thanks so much for sharing that. We’re getting to the end here. We’re up to question number five here. So I want to ask you the question that I ask every BENS member when we do these things. What brought you to BENS and what made you decide to share your talents and insights to assist in helping address some of our nation’s most vexing national security challenges?
Albert Tan (13:09):
I have a very good friendhis name is Jeff Tucker. He’s a fellow BENS member. You know, as you’ve mentioned, I I’m a dual citizen of Taiwan in the U.S. And I’ve been interested in international policy and diplomacy ever since I was in college and Jeff Tucker, he has a business, China real estate fund. And we would talk about our mutual interest in China and doing business in China and private equity and real estate. And so we would have these conversations and we would get into this, the issue about the instability of South China and Taiwan. And I would have these conversations with Jeff and I would say, gosh, you know, I have these concerns and I want to see if there’s a way that I might be able to contribute. I said, I don’t know how I go about doing that, but that is something that I am interested in, particularly with kind of more recent, more aggressive rhetoric surrounding the South China Sea and Taiwan in general. And he said that he is a member of this organization, the Business Executive for National Security. And he thought that might be a good organization where my interest in international policy, diplomacy, national security and particularly now all this talk about China, the U.S. Russia, and would be of interest to me. And so he invited me to a luncheon about Taiwan. It was just fascinating. And so it was through that connection general that I got involved with BENS. And so far it’s been really enlightening to listen to some of the speakers who have come through. And it is shaping kind of how I view things and I think, which I take with me to my own law firm as we think about global events. And I’m still trying to crystalize how I might be able to contribute more to BENS. I’m a recent member, so like to learn more about it and to meet new members. But so far it’s been incredibly enlightening and educational and informative.
General Joe Votel (15:23):
I think I speak on behalf of everybody here in saying how proud we are to have you as a member and your unique expertise, your unique story, all the attributes you bring to this. We really look forward to drawing on your experience and your expertise to address some of these pressing problems that our nation has. And so let me thank you for joining us today. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to talk with you a little bit today. I know our members will enjoy hearing your story as well. So thank you Albert. We really, really appreciate it.
Albert Tan (15:52):
General Votel, thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for your service and thank you for your leadership.
General Joe Votel (15:59):
Thank you very much. And for our listeners, thank you for joining us today. We really appreciate you listening in today. We’ve been talking with Albert Tan, a partner, co-head of Fund Finance Practice Group at Haynes and Boone, LLP and a Dallas BENS member. Thanks again for listening and we look forward to talking with you the next time.
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