CHICAGO - Hoping to keep on a path of "slow and steady growth" that has been aided by the current market upheaval, Chicago-based Cabrera Capital Markets LLC has added three public finance bankers to its ranks so far this year while parting ways with Mike Smale, who was hired last year to help build the business.

Smale had run the municipal bond group at LaSalle Financial Services Inc. in Chicago until the bank was purchased by Bank of America Corp. in 2007. He joined Cabrera last March in a new position as a senior managing director with oversight of managing directors in the firm's three business lines: public finance, corporate finance, and equities.

The firm's chief executive officer, Martin Cabrera Jr., said then that Smale was hired for his experience and knowledge after a national search as the firm sought to move into the role of senior manager on bond deals. Smale started at LaSalle in the mid-1990s as an institutional sales professional before taking over the municipal bond group that included banking, sales, trading, and underwriting.

Several sources said Smale resigned earlier this week and his departure stemmed from disagreements with Cabrera over decisions such as how fast the company should be grown. Smale could not be reached for comment. Martin Cabrera did not return calls to comment.

Brian King, Cabrera's head of public finance banking, said he could not comment on the reasons behind Smale's departure because of company policy. Managing director Robert Libertini will temporarily serve in the position and a permanent replacement would likely be sought, King said.

Smale's departure follows the hiring of three new public finance bankers - veteran Russell Goings and Colleen McInnes in the firm's existing offices in Los Angeles and Ricardo Villasenor in the firm's San Antonio office.

Goings - who has strong West Coast relationships - was hired as a managing director and McInnes as a vice president. Both are general government bankers who left First Southwest Co. to join Cabrera. Villasenor was hired as a senior vice president. He previously worked at Ramirez & Co. until mid-2008 and is also a general government banker.

King said the hires bring to nine the number of bankers on staff with an eye on further hiring, especially given the availability of experienced bankers cut from the ranks of Wall Street firms.

"We don't have any big holes to fill, but we continue to look for people with experience who are ambitious and want to prove themselves," King said. "We are growing, but we want slow and steady growth at the right pace to keep the company balanced."

The majority Latino-owned firm - which has sufficient capital to senior manage a $300 million transaction - saw record revenue growth last year and is also working on developing a short-term book. The eight-year-old firm has a banking presence in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Antonio with additional offices in Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston, and Santa Fe.

The firm ranked 78th nationally last year as a senior manager on $182.5 million of debt in three deals all in the Midwest, up from 134th nationally in 2007 on $28.3 million of debt in six Midwestern deals, according to Thomson Reuters.

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