CHICAGO - Taking advantage of the market turmoil that has led other firms to shed staff or exit the business, Chicago-based Loop Capital Markets LLC yesterday announced the hiring of nearly one dozen municipal banking, sales, and trading professionals and signaled there's more to come.

The additions include both professionals who were cut by other firms or lured by Loop to join a firm where municipals remain a key revenue generator. They span sectors and include a privatization specialist, as the firm seeks to build a new group dedicated to advancing its public-private partnership business. The firm also has opened a new office in Orlando.

"I think we have gone through a fundamental shift in our marketplace and we won't be shifting back," with regional firms emerging as more significant players, said James Reynolds Jr., chief executive officer of the 10-year-old minority-owned firm he started with his wife Sandy Reynolds and Albert Grace Jr. "I think we are in the best spot we could be in" to capitalize on that shift.

The new hires include a handful of bankers and quantitative specialists who will report to the firm's head of public finance investment banking Warren "Bo" Daniels. They include former JPMorgan banker Cody Press, who joined as a managing director and head of the western region, in the firm's Los Angeles office. Also in the firm's Los Angeles office, Joe Crowley joined as a senior vice president. He previously worked at Citi covering California issuers.

Margaret Lezcano was hired as a managing director and head of the southeast region in the new Orlando office. She previously worked at UBS Securities LLC which shed its municipal group in June. She previously held positions at Citi and Goldman Sachs & Co.

In Loop's Chicago office, Robert Walsh, a 20-year veteran who specializes in the transportation sector, joined the firm as a managing director and head of the transportation group. He previously worked at JPMorgan. Jonathan Yu also joins the Chicago office as a vice president in the infrastructure group providing quantitative support. He also previously worked at JPMorgan.

Banting Wu, a quantitative specialist, joined as a senior vice president of technical services within the public finance group. He will relocate to New York City from Chicago to work on New York state issues. He most recently worked at JPMorgan and Banc of America Securities LLC.

The firm hired Rohit Syal as an investment banking associate, to work on infrastructure and privatization deals. He previously served as a project manager with the advisory firm Wilbur Smith Associates in its transportation finance division.

Syal will work with banking head Daniels and Peter Bynoe, a former partner at DLA Piper US LLP who was chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission and Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. Bynoe was tapped by Loop earlier this year to join as a managing director to work on both P3 transactions and on Loop's growing corporate finance business.

"This group will work proactively to aggressively identify public assets for privatization," he said, adding that several additional professionals would be hired. The firm served as a co-financial adviser to Chicago on its groundbreaking lease of the Chicago Skyway toll bridge for $1.8 billion in early 2005 and was co-financial adviser on the proposal from Detroit to lease the Windsor Tunnel.

The firm also hired Joseph Nichols as an assistant vice president and short-term desk specialist in Chicago. He previously worked at UBS. Alex Moore joined the firm in Chicago as a director in municipal sales and trading. He previously worked at JPMorgan and will cover the firm's large tax-exempt accounts. Rita Kahn joined the firm in Washington D.C. in a newly-created position of chief communications officer reporting to Reynolds. She will oversee the development of both government and corporate relationships.

All the new hires have started in recent weeks or will join the firm by the end of the month, Reynolds said.

The additions mark the largest hiring spree undertaken by the firm which has grown steadily over the last 10 years from an original six-member staff located in Chicago to about 100 corporate and tax-exempt professionals located in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Oakland, Los Angeles and now Orlando.

"What's most significant about these hires is the quality of A-tier people. In a normal market environment it would be impossible to attract this level of talent all at once," Reynolds, 54, said, adding he expects to announce the additions of another 10 to 15 professionals this year.

Reynolds said the firm can afford the dramatic expansion. "We weren't large enough to handle the magnitude of potential opportunities and we still are not," he said.

The firm hopes to reach $100 million in annual revenues within the next three years. Reynolds declined to reveal the firm's current revenues, but said last year was a record year and the firm's gross revenues are currently up 50%. The firm's corporate side now represents about 30% of revenues. Tax-exempts account for about 50% compared to the more than 90% it represented a decade ago.

The firm also hopes with the staffing boost to increase its market share and ultimately its rankings, rising to the top five firms nationally as a co-manager and into the top 10 of senior managers.

As a senior manager, Loop ranked 24th nationally last year on $2.1 billion of bonds and 26th for the first half of this year with nearly $1 billion while it ranked 12th last year on $6.4 billion of bonds and 9th on $4.2 billion of deals for the first half of the year as a co-manager, according to Thomson Reuters.

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