"We aren't afraid to be contrarians, which can be a unique quality in a highly retail focused market that definitely has a herd mentality to it," said Michael Johnson, Co-CEO of Gurtin Fixed Income Management LLC.

LOS ANGELES — Michael Johnson has been promoted to co-chief executive officer at Gurtin Fixed Income Management LLC, a San Diego and Chicago-based fund manager that has $10.5 billion in assets under management.

Johnson will be responsible for the firm's day-to-day management and all firm-level risk management. Founder Bill Gurtin, who was serving as sole CEO, will continue on as a CEO and as chief investment officer, framing the firm's long-term strategic vision and overseeing the firm's investment management operations.

"The promotion is well deserved," Gurtin said in a statement.

Johnson has 21 years of financial services experience with a focus on municipal bonds and risk management.

"Michael rolled up his sleeves and started our research group on his own eight years ago; since then, he's run nearly every department, making his mark on each one in the process," Gurtin said. "His proactive management of the risks faced by our industry and sincere concern for our clients' best interests has enabled us to continue to create value – both for our clients and the talented individuals who make up our firm's unique culture."

Prior to joining the firm, Johnson served as head of Merrill Lynch's Municipal Credit, Banking Credit, and Insurance Credit teams. Before that, Johnson spent seven years at Moody's Investors Service in several public finance groups, ultimately serving as the co-manager of Moody's Midwest regional office.

Gurtin and Johnson had already segued into working in such a way that Johnson handles the day to day management while Gurtin focuses on crafting strategies.

"It seems the perfect time to formalize that," Johnson said, speaking of expectations that interest rates will finally begin to rise, creating more volatility in the municipal bond market.

As market conditions change, Johnson said, it is a good time for Gurtin to focus more on larger strategies for the firm, while Johnson focuses on managing day-to-day operations.

The firm, which employs 65 people in San Diego and Chicago, has solidified its basic infrastructure and is poised for growth, Johnson said.

It is planning to open an office in San Francisco early next year and is contemplating opening offices in other cities.

The vast majority of the $10.6 billion Gurtin manages is in municipal bonds. It is achieved annual growth of 20%, Johnson said.

"Our idea is to be experts in one thing," Johnson said. "We like to say we are an inch wide and a mile deep. We just focus on being the best-in-class municipal financial firm."

Though Johnson has worked with bulge bracket firms, he said, he likes the nimbleness of running a boutique – and the focus on the municipal bond market.

"What I love, is that we built a business that is independent and one that doesn't follow the herd at all," he said.

Gurtin does its own software development as well as employing its own credit analysts.

"We have a unique mindset and tend to make investments that reflect that," he said. "We aren't afraid to be contrarians, which can be a unique quality in a highly retail focused market that definitely has a herd mentality to it."

Gurtin called the promotion a natural evolution of Johnson's strong leadership within the firm.

"Michael is a rare talent with the combination of vast industry knowledge, creativity, humility, and the highest integrity," Gurtin said. "These qualities will serve him well as he continues to broaden and hone his executive leadership skills, and we prepare to enter a new era of growth and success."

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