Alumni Success Story: Kent Williams
Kent Williams, MBA Class of ’77
Managing Member, Vista Asset Management LLC
Founder, VIA Motors
During a long career as a capital markets advisor, Kent Williams has helped countless clients and companies create and build wealth. From institutional sales to strategic counsel and portfolio management, he has held executive level positions at such places as Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust Co.
For more than a decade, Williams has run Vista Asset Management, his own investment advisory firm that provides wealth management, strategic capital and business advisory services. In more recent years he has brought several rounds of capital to VIA Motors, a privately held electric vehicle development and manufacturing company, where he leads business development with the hopes of opening people’s minds to think beyond the idea of electric vehicles just for personal use.
“Most of the electric vehicle market is focused on consumers and small cars,” he says. “Our belief is that the largest user of oil is light utility vehicles.” VIA is producing plug-in hybrid electric trucks, electric 4WD luxury SUVs and extended range electric cargo vans in partnership with PG&E, Verizon and Coca Cola.
Although having learned much from the variety of companies he has worked for over the past four decades, Williams credits his Saint Mary’s MBA education for giving him perspective when he was just starting out. It was in the early days of the program, and he was the youngest student in his class.
“It gave me a sense of conviction and a broader perspective,” he says. “It also allowed me to feel more confident in looking at other areas that I hadn’t been exposed to.” Williams found the small class size and the quality of professors, many of whom also had business careers as well, were what set Saint Mary’s apart.
He is so fond of the school, in fact, that he convinced his son Ross and daughter-in-law Natalie to also pursue their MBAs at Saint Mary’s, which they both did, in 2008 through the Hybrid Executive MBA program.
In order to repay what he received from his MBA education, Williams reconnected with the college a few years ago and in 2010 assisted Professor Roy Allen in examining the undergraduate and graduate business curriculum. They wanted to see how Saint Mary’s could better compete with other top-notch area business schools and be more relevant.
Williams advised the school to leverage its alumni network to achieve a higher profile and gain the best internships possible. He also recommended looking to the college’s Lasallian roots, the true soul of the school and what gives Saint Mary’s its values.