In his characteristic deep voice and British accent, Democrat John Blankley said he is exploring a run for state treasurer, as he visited New canaan recently. The Greenwich resident left England over 35 years ago, when he was transferred by British Petroleum, (BP) where he served as chief financial officer.
Blankley discussed his exploratory run for Connecticut’s top financial post in a room full of people at an Advertiser’s coffee — which is normally off the record — but he agreed to a phone interview, which took place on Friday, August 19.
He grew up in England as the son of a coal miner and went on to attend Oxford University. In 2000, he co-founded Flagship Networks, Inc., a Greenwich-based computer consulting and systems integration company.
“I have these financial skills and experience and we have financial problems in the state and I want to go and help and serve and do the best I can,” he said.
Politics is not new to Blankley. In 2013, he was elected to and presently sits on the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation — the town’s board of finance. He has served as a member of Greenwich’s Representative Town Meeting and on the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee. He ran for First Selectman of Greenwich in 2011, the State Assembly in 2012 and the State Senate in 2016.
What a treasurer does
The treasury issues bonds, manages pensions and oversees over three million transactions a year, he explained. The treasurer does not set budget or policy, since that is done by the governor and the legislature.
The treasurer oversees the investments of the $32 billion pension fund through different money managers, he explained. He would play an important role in “selecting them and making sure we got the best,” he said.
He believes good accounting practices can have an important impact on the state. It is “very appropriate that we should have accounting principles and they should be adhered to,” he said.
He believes he is qualified to institute the best practices because of “all the jobs that I’ve had and the skills that I’ve acquired,” he said.
In the past there have been some “creative accounting” on the state level, he said. The treasury has been using interest income from a multi-year bond in the first year, instead of following the accepted practice in which they are “normally spread over” the age of the bond, he explained.
Corporate executives want someone to bring back financial “stability and certainty” on the state level, he explained. “I know from my corporate background that this is what corporate executives want. They want to know there is a plan,” he said.
Moral compass points to gains
As the treasurer oversees the management of the pension funds, he or she determines how much is invested in foreign equity, private equity, fixed incomes and how much is “kept in cash,” he explained.
In determining the state’s investments, he believes it is important to invest in companies that are socially responsible because they can perform “at least as good or better” than other financial instruments, he said.
The state should continue to follow the United Nations Principle of responsible investing, he said.
Blankley believes regulation is important aspect of capitalism which he describes as a “good system.” But regulation is needed to regulate securities markets and banks for “consumer protection from such things as predatory lenders.”
He wants to help. “It is your absolute duty to give back to society,” he said.