For more than three decades, Steve Aleman’s career has been motivated by wanting to know more. “I like challenges and I like hard work, and I’ve always liked the ability to take on new challenges,” he notes. “I think that’s how you gain an understanding of all facets of an organization, be in a position to understand all drivers of growth, how your decisions impact those drivers, and ultimately make better decisions to create value for the organization.”
Now more than ever before, leaders all over the world are facing change and complexity—the coronavirus pandemic has presented new challenges, new circumstances, and new uncertainties. Aleman emphasizes that to not only grow but to survive adaptability is a requirement. Because change is constant and inevitable, leaders must be flexible to succeed.
As chief financial officer of Prime Healthcare, one of the nation’s leading health systems with forty-six hospitals in fourteen states serving over six hundred communities. The organization has 35,000 employed staff and provides 2.6 million patient visits annually. Aleman has leveraged his twenty-three years of diverse healthcare experience to help the company navigate the ever-changing US healthcare market.
Prior to joining Prime Healthcare, Aleman started his career in public accounting where he became a certified public accountant. While he enjoyed supporting his various clients who were generally owner/operator entrepreneurs, he sought to plant is career roots with growing companies in dynamic business environments.
He selected healthcare and started on the payor-side at WellPoint/Anthem, the largest for-profit managed healthcare company in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and in the Top 30 on the Fortune 500 list. After eleven years and contributing to the successful WellPoint/Anthem merger, Aleman moved to the provider side where he has succeeded in various leadership roles such as internal audit, business development, compliance, and served as CFO of several national hospital companies.
“Throughout my career, I have worn many hats,” Aleman says. “It has helped me understand and enhance company growth drivers in an effort to create value. As a leader in healthcare, it is critical to maintain a focus on continuous improvement and evolution. Transformative change in healthcare is the norm, and to succeed and survive, leaders and companies must constantly evolve.”
Aleman joined Prime in January 2020 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the US that changed every aspect life.
“It was a challenging time in healthcare, and especially professionally challenging while stepping into a leadership role at a new company,” Aleman says. “Just as you begin to develop business relationships with your corporate teams and define your strategic plan, the world is turned upside down and remote work environments become the norm.
“However, it was also a very inspiring time to be in healthcare,” he continues. “Our frontline healthcare providers began to receive the recognition as the heroes they truly are—and the executive team supported them by being in the office every day to address their needs and rise up to meet the enormous challenges at hand.”
“Just as you begin to develop business relationships with your corporate teams and define your strategic plan, the world is turned upside down and remote work environments become the norm.”
Aleman highlights that while the news focuses on “The Healthcare Divide” in reference to the disparity of care received in various population segments, he references that Prime has been at the forefront of bridging that divide.
“There are countless stories from the various communities we serve, where Prime was able to help patients and their loved ones deal with unforeseen challenges that haven’t been experienced in generations,” Aleman says. “It shows the bravery of those who provided care across our system, battling wave after wave of COVID surges from the early spike that hit our northeast facilities to the winter surge that ravaged California.”
Aleman notes that while Prime stepped up to help bridge that divide and ensure the underserved continued to have access to quality healthcare, it was still important as an organization to focus on growth drivers that could best position the company in a post COVID-19 world.
To see to that, Aleman and the finance side of Prime took on three key challenges. First, re-engage an acquisition growth engine that had been on hold for the past few years. Second, reposition the company with leading banks and investment firms. And third, recapitalize the company to bring down the cost of capital, provide a maturity long-runaway, and grow strengthen the balance sheet.
Normally, these goals are challenging to execute in a short timeframe, but potentially even more challenging during a pandemic.
“Once again, you must leverage your assets and skill set to adapt to the challenges of the day and evolve your thinking and approach—focus on the solution for the problem, not all the reasons why a problem cannot be solved,” Aleman advises.
In early 2020, an attractive healthcare asset came to market just as COVID-19 was starting to tighten its grip on the nation: St. Francis Medical Center, the jewel of the former Daughters of Charity and Verity Health System. Certain interested parties turned their focus away from expansion, other fell victim to a tightening credit market.
“It was purchased out of bankruptcy, but the belief was this hospital could return to once again become community asset it once was,” he says. Aleman and the Prime executive team focused on the possible as opposed to the impossible and raised funding for the acquisition where others couldn’t. Then, the challenge turned to integrating a large safety net hospital during a pandemic—challenges that were faced head-on with hard work and creativity.
“It’s never a dull day and nothing static. . . . I focus my day on how I can contribute to the company and grow my career along with that.”
“Roughly eight months later, so far, the acquisition, integration, and community outreach efforts have been a resounding success,” he notes. “The pandemic actually brought about a unique opportunity whereby this community was in a period of great need and had no choice but to turn to the hospital for care and compassion. Prime and its heroic frontline caregivers answered the call to establish bonds that otherwise would have taken years to establish.”
Shortly thereafter, in late 2020 and early 2021, Aleman and Prime closed multiple bond offerings that ultimately recapitalized the company, solidifying the company’s balance position for further growth for years to come.
“These financings affirmed the strength of Prime’s platform, strategic vision, and quality model. The model endured even through the pandemic with the historic acquisition of St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California,” Aleman says.
Looking ahead, he expects to have an even more transformative impact in the years ahead from a quality and cost efficiency perspective. Aleman notes his success has always come by taking a solution-oriented approach to achieve both organic and strategic growth.
By following this work philosophy, Aleman has been able to enjoy a successful, dynamic career.
“It’s never a dull day and nothing static. I never had to worry in my career about becoming complacent,” he notes. “I focus my day on how I can contribute to the company and grow my career along with that.”
Moss Adams LLP provides assurance, tax, and consulting insight and expertise to public, private, and not-for-profit healthcare enterprises. We serve more than 3,700 clients across the healthcare continuum, from large health systems, hospitals, and long-term care organizations to clinics, medical groups, and physician practices. Visit mossadams.com/healthcare.