WASHINGTON — Michael Decker plans to rejoin the Securities and Industry Financial Markets Association next month after leaving the Regional Bond Dealers Association, a group he helped launch and co-lead in March 2008, both groups announced yesterday.
Decker will return to the group to co-head its municipal securities division with Leslie Norwood and both will report to SIFMA executive vice president Randy Snook. Decker previously served as SIFMA’s senior managing director for research and public policy.
“Together, Michael and Leslie, will be a formidable pair, and will provide SIFMA and its members an even stronger voice on one of our core strategic issues,” said SIFMA president and CEO Tim Ryan. “Especially during this time of unprecedented municipal market uncertainty, Michael’s knowledge, experience, and relationships will be an additive resource to an already-strong team.”
In an interview, Decker said he began exploring a return to SIFMA six to eight weeks ago when Snook called him to talk about investing more resources in muni advocacy.
“The more he talked the more it made sense to me,” he said. Decker said he is “thrilled” to be going back to SIFMA, where he will be able to focus exclusively on municipal public policy issues — which is what he did when he joined the Public Securities Association, a predecessor organization to The Bond Market Association and SIFMA, nearly 20 years ago.
“We’ve been able to accomplish some things here at RBDA, but I feel that SIFMA offers the ability to accomplish even more and improve the municipal market,” he said. There are “key, high-profile issues” that can be best addressed through SIFMA, he added, such as the the popular Build America Bonds program and other initiatives in the stimulus law, which will lapse at the end of next year unless reauthorized.
SIFMA’s hiring of Decker comes after the Wall Street trade group was formed three years ago from a difficult merger of two predecessor organizations — TBMA and the Securities Industry Association — that led to cutbacks and voluntary departures, including among its muni staff.
Since then, the group has recognized the need to devote more resources toward municipals, according to Norwood and others at SIFMA.
“We are and have been for a number of months now methodically going through a plan to increase our coverage in this area, both in staff and issues covered,” Norwood said.
SIFMA began boosting its muni staff in January, when it announced that it had hired Leon Bijou, a former attorney at Goldman, Sachs & Co. to assist with municipal legal and regulatory issues. The group also hired Ken Bentsen, a former House Democrat from Texas who previously worked as a muni dealer, to run its Washington office.
Michael Nicholas, co-chief executive officer of the RBDA, said in an interview that Decker’s departure is “disappointing and disruptive,” but stressed that the group “will use this as a real opportunity to become a more effective organization.”
“They’ve been a little frustrated with our success over the years,” Nicholas said. “It’s a personal decision he’s making to go back and work for SIFMA and work for a different demographic of firms.”
But Decker said: “I feel like I’m going to be able to serve the regional fixed-income community very well at SIFMA.”
Mark Medford, RBDA chairman and Vining-Sparks IBG Ltd.’s president and chief executive officer, said, “I want to thank Michael for his efforts and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
Since it began operating last year, the RBDA has more than doubled from its 14 original firms to 32 associated firms, including 23 dealers. The group stresses that it is the only organization to focus primarily on fixed-income legislative and regulatory issues.
Fewer than five members of the RBDA have left SIFMA to join the regional group, while 14 of the RBDA’s 23 dealer firms are also members of SIFMA. Three RBDA dealers were never SIFMA members.
And while the dealers group has been involved on a myriad of muni regulatory and legal issues, its staff and influence on Capitol Hill remains small compared to SIFMA, which has about 550 total members, including about 80 members in the muni area.