Baird hires three bankers to focus on higher ed, federal leases

BY SourceMedia | MUNICIPAL | 11/28/22 01:40 PM EST By Keeley Webster

Baird has wooed three senior public finance bankers away from Oppenheimer & Co. as it continues to add strength to its municipal banking bench.

The new hires ? Chris Morse, Steve Simpson and Carlo Fitti ? will work out of the employee-owned firm's Philadelphia and Boston offices.

The trio bring expertise in credit analysis with a focus on federal leases and higher education, according to a Baird press release.

"We are very pleased to have Chris, Steve and Carlo joining Baird," said Brian Brewer, managing director/director of public finance at Baird. "Their tremendous expertise in credit analysis allows them to develop financing plans that use their clients' credit strengths to execute institutionally critical financings."

Morse, a managing director in public finance, has more than 29 years' experience in investment banking and corporate finance. At Oppenheimer, he specialized in developing the firm's high-yield, tax-exempt debt market with a focus on higher education. He also created and scaled a new asset class around non-cancellable federal lease obligations, issuing $2 billion of federal lease revenue bonds since fiscal 2020.

Earlier in his career, Morse focused on building markets for Merrill Lynch's leveraged finance group and helped integrate Merrill Lynch's Global Banking Group with the firm's investment banking, private equity and leveraged finance initiatives. Shortly after leaving Merrill, Morse served as a member of Municipal Funding Corp of America which pioneered the first?ever tax exempt CDO. Morse received his Bachelor of Science from Louisiana Tech University and served in the United States Marine Corps.

Simpson is a CFA, managing director in public finance, associate banker and has more than 30 years of experience. He has advised on, structured, and executed about $19 billion of tax-exempt and taxable bond issues for owners of mission critical federal infrastructure, private higher and secondary educational organizations, acute and long-term healthcare providers, as well as cultural and research not-for-profit organizations. Simpson specializes in securing initial credit ratings for issuers and borrowers and developing innovative financing structures. Simpson received his bachelor's in political economy from Williams College.

Fitti, a director of public finance and associate banker, has more than 20 years of securities experience. He was an executive director at Oppenheimer on the higher education team. Prior to that, he was head trader and options strategist at AlphaOne Capital Partners, LLC. He also worked in Market Making and Proprietary Trading at Susquehanna International Group (SIG). Fitti has a bachelor's degree in economics from Swarthmore College.

Over the past 10 years, Baird, an international finance company, has grown its public finance headcount by more than 40%, according to the firm. Baird ranked as the No. 1 municipal underwriter by number of issues for the 13th consecutive year in 2021, according to to Ipreo MuniAnalytics.

Baird is a full-service broker-dealer firm that provides municipal underwriting and financial advisory services to public school districts, charter schools, municipalities, counties, special districts and authorities, states, developers, and higher education.

Business is booming for headhunters who focus on public finance banking, particularly when sales slow, said Richard Baggott, a public finance recruiter based in Denver who helped place the trio.

Often, senior bankers will look at other firms when business is slow, and they have tied up existing deals, Baggott said.

"We have been getting a lot more calls this year than we did over the past two years," Baggott said. "I have senior bankers calling me and saying there have been changes here, sometimes it is a change in management and they are ready to look somewhere else."

Some people are also jumping because they became accustomed to working from home at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and they don't want to return to the office, he said. So if a different firm will offer them the same level of seniority, but more time at home, they are often willing to jump, Baggot added.

In general the bond market is volatile, and fixed income securities carry interest rate risk. (As interest rates rise, bond prices usually fall, and vice versa. This effect is usually more pronounced for longer-term securities.) Fixed income securities also carry inflation risk and credit and default risks for both issuers and counterparties. Unlike individual bonds, most bond funds do not have a maturity date, so avoiding losses caused by price volatility by holding them until maturity is not possible.

Lower-quality debt securities generally offer higher yields, but also involve greater risk of default or price changes due to potential changes in the credit quality of the issuer. Any fixed income security sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss.

Before investing, consider the funds' investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. Contact Fidelity for a prospectus or, if available, a summary prospectus containing this information. Read it carefully.