CHICAGO — Chicago-based BMO Capital Markets has hired senior public finance health care banker David Johnson and three of his colleagues from Ziegler Capital Markets for its merged higher education and health care practices, and named a fouth colleague to lead its strategy and analytics efforts.

Johnson, a managing director, will be based in Chicago and lead the nonprofit institutions group, said Lyle McCoy, head of public finance and infrastructure. “They bring real power to health care and higher education,” McCoy said of the hires in an interview this week.

Johnson previously led the nonprofit health care group at Ziegler. His 25-year career in public finance has included positions at Citi, the former Merrill Lynch & Co., and Lehman Brothers. Johnson and his group started this week at BMO.

Brett Whysel joins the firm’s New York City office as a managing director and head of public finance strategy and ­analytics.

He specializes in risk analytics and consulting and worked at Citi and Merrill before Ziegler. He will report to McCoy.

Kerry Rudy will work in the Chicago office as a managing director. In addition to Ziegler, Rudy  has worked at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Lehman.

Lisa Conley joined the Chicago office as a director. She previously worked at Ziegler and Citi.

Jullia Quazi joined the San Francisco office as a director.

Rudy, Conley, and Quazi will report to Johnson.

The investment banking arm of the Bank of Montreal Financial Group first launched a health care practice in early 2009 with the hiring of banker Brian ­McGough, who will now report to Johnson as will existing higher education bankers.

The firm also announced that Ellen Jewett, a transportation specialist who started in May as a managing director, will lead the government infrastructure group. 

The new hires bring the size of the public finance team under McCoy to 34.

The bank has steadily added banking, sales, and trading staff over the last two years to its Chicago, New York, and California offices as it seeks to shed its image as a strong player in the bank-qualified, middle-markets business and carve out a spot among top senior managers of negotiated issues.

The evolution began after the Bank of Montreal’s acquisition of the boutique firm Griffin, Kubik, Stephens & Thompson Inc. in May 2008.

The bank plans to continue the selective hiring of bankers to fill in spots in various regions and remains in the market for additional sales and traders for its taxable desk, which reports to James Fitzgerald.

McCoy said he is satisfied with the team the firm has built with specialists in government, transportation, public power, and now health care and higher education.

“I think we have a good foundation going forward as we start our new fiscal year,” he said.

BMO’s rankings improved from 2008 to 2009 but it has a long way to go among senior managers nationally. The firm ranks 22d so far this year as a senior manager in the Midwest and finished last year ranked 11th, up from a 20th place finish in 2008.

In Illinois, the firm ranks 11th so far this year, and finished ninth last year, up from an 11th place finish in 2008.

The firm ranks 44th so far this year nationally as a senior manager and finished last year at 31st, up from a 40th place finish in 2008.

On competitive deals, the firm ranks sixth so far this year in Illinois, fourth in the Midwest, and 13th so far this year nationally, according to Thomson Reuters.

BMO decided to merge the health care and higher education group due to the similar needs of borrowers in both sectors.

“These are all nonprofit institutions that differ from government institutions and behave almost more like corporate finance credits,” Johnson said, citing their need for services like investment analytics and asset liability and enterprise risk.

“In the wake of the financial crisis, organizations that don’t fully understand the impact of 'black swan’ events on their operations run the risk of being caught blindsided,” Johnson added. “What we are hoping to build is a comprehensive platform that not only provides credit but also in-depth, sophisticated investment banking analytics that assist organizations in making better decisions.”

Johnson speaks highly of Ziegler’s investment banking capabilities but said the lack of a commercial bank partner to provide credit was a limiting factor.

While many nonprofits have turned to fixed-rate debt since the financial crisis due to the low rate environment and high costs of liquidity for floating rate structures “the memory that credit can evaporate quickly is still fresh in minds,” Johnson said. “Maintenance of banking relationships that also provide access to credit has become a foundation of the new banking model we operate under.”

BMO is considered a judicious provider of credit, and officials have said in interviews that it would remain so. McCoy said while the firm won’t lead with credit, it remains on the table as a tool if needed.

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