End of an era: Ward Marsh stepping down at Citi
Citi is losing another top-tier employee to retirement, as Ward Marsh announced his intention to call it quits after 45 years of service, effective at a later date this summer.
The current chairman of global spread products, which includes munis, securitized products and credit. Marsh got started at the firm's predecessor company Smith Barney in 1973 as an institutional salesman covering some of the firm’s largest municipal clients. Marsh then worked his way up to head of municipal sales, then to head of municipal market and up one more time to head of municipal security division 1991 — holding that spot down until his move to the GSP roughly a year ago.
“During his tenure, Ward’s leadership created a culture of trust and creativity and Ward fostered an environment that attracted and developed many of the most influential leaders in the industry,” Paco Ybarra, CEO of Citi’s Institutional Clients Group, said in an internal memo sent to staffers obtained by The Bond Buyer. Ybarra's group comprises Banking, Capital Markets and Advisory, Markets and Securities Services, Treasury and Trade Solutions, and the Citi Private Bank.
Ybarra said under Ward’s watch, the Municipal Securities Division at Citi became the most successful in the business, overcoming a host of challenges.
“From Tax Reform to the Financial Crisis, from national disasters to historic bankruptcies, Ward’s calm demeanor, steady hand and strategic, long-term vision helped the franchise prosper," Ybarra said. "Finally, as a capstone to his unparalleled career, Ward is leaving a new generation of leadership within the business that will continue to see it flourish. We thank Ward for his many contributions to our company’s success and for his outstanding leadership, friendship and loyal service to Citi.”
While there was no overriding reason why he is retiring now, Ward told The Bond Buyer in an exclusive interview that there were two things that made the timing perfect.
“I spent 44 out of 45 years in munis and the past year I have been an advisor to the newly formed global spread products group,” Marsh said. “Now is a good time for me to do a bunch of unnurtured passions.”
He noted that at the age of 67, he wants free time to go and do fun things.
“I am going to pick up a number of sports and further my love for plants,” he said. “I just like to watch things grow. I spent my professional life watching my colleagues grow and now I will spend time watching plants grow.”
He will kick off his retirement, spending two full weeks in July sailing competitively around Newport, Rhode Island.
During his nearly 27 years as head of the Municipal Securities Division, Ward oversaw the formation of the firm’s innovative Municipal Financial Products businesses, the creation of Citi Community Capital (CCC), Citi’s pioneering efforts into E-Trading, and other transformative new products that created value for issuer and investor clients alike.
Today, Citi’s Municipal Securities business remains one of the most successful franchises in Markets and Securities Services. As a consistent top-four municipal bond underwriter, it has executed many of the most important public finance transactions in history, raising hundreds of billions of capital for municipal infrastructure and other financing priorities.
Ward’s professional expertise extends beyond his role at Citi and into the industry, as he was a member of the Municipal Bond Club of New York and the Municipal Forum, a board member of the Bond Market Association and a Chairman of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. He was also a founding board member of the Municenter, an electronic trading platform for municipals and other fixed income securities.
The news about Marsh comes right on the heels of longtime banker Dale Horowitz’s decision to retire. With Marsh's impending exit and Joe Geraci moving from deputy head of the municipal securities division to his current post of co-head of global spread products, it is the end of an era at Citi for the long-tenured muni group.
George Friedlander, managing partner at Court Street Group, worked at Citi for 41 years up until September 2016. He said it's important to understand Ward’s essential role in creating the consistently strongest municipal division in the industry, noting at least five components of that.
“He hired very top talent, and taught them munis, rather than relying on muni people exclusively. He was incredibly early to understand that the muni market specifically would become vastly more automated, applying technology to the muni division early and effectively,” Friedlander said. “He also made the case to the firm that Citi should have a strong bid side during periods of market distress — and then following through so that institutions knew that they had a place to go with their bonds, regardless of the environment. This combination gave institutions strong confidence that their relationship with Citi was a key component of their business plan. That perception was driven by Ward, and it never wavered.”
Friedlander added that Marsh was a strong and consistent advocate for his team members whenever there were “issues” around the firm, which crop up from time to time at every bank. "As a consequence, key parts of his team stayed together, quite literally, for decades," he said.
“I have seen multiple acquisitions leading up to what ultimately became Citi, while the muni franchise has always been held in high regard and I am greatly appreciative,” Marsh said.
Geraci said that working with Marsh has been one of the greatest privileges of his career.
“Few, if any in the municipal business, have better foreseen the many tectonic changes that have happened to our industry,” he said.
“For the betterment of our clients and the strengthening of his team, Ward embraced change, built an environment of trust, and fostered a competition of ideas. Ward’s leadership of Citi’s municipal franchise is indelible. We thank him for everything he has done and wish him the best in his next chapter.”