CHICAGO – Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird & Co. has hired a new public finance banker to staff its Columbus, Ohio office and grow its health care practice.

Jeff Fivecoat joins Baird from Red Capital Group, also based in Columbus, where he was vice president of the Hospital Finance Group. Before that, he was director of finance from 2004 to 2007 at OhioHealth.

The move comes a month after Baird, which is both a municipal underwriter and financial advisor, added a director to its Pennsylvania public finance team and five bankers and three new offices in Texas. The firm has 36 public finance bankers at 14 offices across the country.

Fivecoat joins Tanya Hahn, who heads up the health care public finance group in Columbus. A Baird spokesman said the firm expects to hire more bankers for the health care team. Fivecoat said the firm will focus primarily on the Midwestern states, as well as Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, and “clients in markets that have significant new capital needs.”

Baird’s most recent health care deals have been under $50 million, and Fivecoat said the firm is “well positioned” to serve larger acute-care providers and senior housing operators.

“Our current legal underwriting capacity is $2.7 billion and we were ranked as number 11 underwriter in 2012 based on par amount,” Fivecoat said in an email. “So we have the capacity and expertise to underwrite these larger issues.”

The non-profit health care market has struggled with fiscal and economic problems and low issuance over the last few years, but Fivecoat said he thinks providers will continue to take advantage of historic low tax-exempt rates as well as private placements with banks.

“For stronger credits, we expect that they will utilize a greater proportion of bank financing that is synthetically fixed and carries renewal risk to blend down their debt cost of capital,” he said. “For more speculative credits, we expect them to use both fixed-rate issues and governmental programs to find a solution that meets their timing, risk, and interest-rate requirements.”

In the first half of 2012 Baird ranked first in the nation among senior managers for municipal bond underwritings of small issues, working on 324 bond sales totaling $1.4 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

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