DALLAS - Little Rock-based investment bankers Crews & Associates have added two bankers to its Dallas branch office as the firm looks to do more business with Texas issuers.

Joining the firm are Wendy Wipperman, who had been an associate director with Standard & Poor's office in Dallas, and Sherald Wood, former director and interim financial officer of South Limestone Hospital District in Groesbeck, Tex.

Chuck Steele, executive managing director of Crews' capital markets group, said Wipperman and Wood are the first full-time bankers in the company's Dallas office.

"We've done business in Texas since 1994, but it was handled through our Little Rock office," Steele said. "The office in Dallas has been open for about a year, but it has not been staffed full-time until now."

Steele said Crews is increasing its presence in Texas because of the high level of bond activity in the state.

"As a practical matter, the value of bond issuance in Texas is almost 10 times larger than what it is in some of the other states where we have offices," he said. "It is a state in which we've wanted to have a larger presence for some time. We have been working on staffing the Dallas office since January. We conducted a lot of interviews, and we believe we've got the right people."

Wipperman worked with many Texas and Oklahoma issuers and financial advisers during her nine years with Standard & Poor's, Steele said, and Wood has been involved with health care business management and finance in Texas for 25 years.

"Sherald understands a great deal about the process of issuing bonds from the viewpoint of the health-care provider," Steele said. "She has years of experience that will allow her to be of service to these providers, including hospitals and rural health providers."

Wipperman, who worked with JPMorgan Chase Bank of New York before her stint with Standard & Poor's, said the time was right for the move to Crews.

"There are not as many national underwriting firms as there used to be, which provides more opportunities for regional firms," she said. "Texas is a good market, and an expanding market, despite this current short-term liquidity issue."

In addition to Arkansas and Texas, Crews has branch offices in Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, and Maryland.

Steele said Crews has been involved in almost 1,000 transactions totaling more than $16.5 billion for Texas issuers and borrowers since 1994. Data on activity in the first half of 2008 from Thompson Reuters shows that Crews served as senior manager for 32 issues in the southwest region totaling $197.7 million, and for 13 issues in the southeast region totaling $83.9 million.

Steele said regional underwriters such as Crews can provide insights into the local market and local investors that are sometimes lacking with large national firms.

"We are interested in and capable of working with issuers that often are not large enough to attract the attention of the national underwriters, on everything from bond issues to lease transactions," he said. "We can handle issues from larger than $100 million to $10 million and less. We are also interested in qualified unrated issues, because of the investors we have."

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