The National Federation of Municipal Analysts wants to retool itself to reflect significant changes in the analyst community, as well as to lay the foundation for the next generation of muni analysts.

NFMA chair Mary Francoeur, a managing director at PFM Financial Advisors in New York described those efforts in an interview with the Bond Buyer.

Francoeur, who previously served as treasurer and chair of various NFMA committees, said the group is in the process of forming a committee charged with creating a long-term strategic plan for the group, which claims nearly 1,400 members. While the idea of a strategic plan is not new at the NFMA, this effort represents the first concrete steps in that direction.

Mary Francoeur
The NFMA is working to adapt and change to serve municipal analysts of the future, said Mary Francoeur.

“We’re really hoping to get it off the ground,” Francoeur said.

The members of the committee have not all been chosen, but two former NFMA chairs — Franklin Templeton vice president and research analyst Jennifer Johnston and Merritt Research Services president and chief executive officer Richard Ciccarone — have been tapped to co-chair the committee.

Francoeur said the analyst community and NFMA's membership have changed tremendously since she first became active with the group around 2006, making it appropriate to rethink the group’s priorities.

When she first joined the NFMA, Francoeur said, membership was fairly evenly distributed among buy-side analysts, rating agency analysts, and those who worked for bond insurers. Now, that balance has gone away with the decline of bond insurer membership.

About half of NFMA members now identify as buy-side analysts, according to NFMA records.

“I think what we’ve tried to do in how we operate is respond to some of those changes,” Francoeur said.

Francoeur has worked in multiple different sectors during her career. Prior to joining PFM in September 2016, she was a managing director at bond insurer Assured Guaranty, and earlier worked at FGIC and Moody’s Investor’s Service.

NFMA’s educational offerings have been most important to her over the years, Francoeur said, adding that she has enjoyed the ability to work with colleagues to provide valuable resources to the industry. She got involved first by volunteering to be part of a planning committee, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I just really enjoyed that experience,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for me personally to get involved with a lot of really smart people and hopefully contribute to the goals of the organization.”

A big part of the NFMA’s priorities is an effort to spread that feeling to a younger generation. The NFMA already offers free student memberships, but Francoeur said the group is also exploring the possibility of creating a mentorship program and is directing constituent regional analyst organizations to identify opportunities at local colleges where future muni analysts might be found.

The NFMA also intends to take a look at how it can more effectively communicate with its young members, although Francoeur said she expects more specifics on that and other efforts to emerge out of the Johnston-Ciccarone committee.

But with those efforts underway, Francoeur said the NFMA will continue to push for improved disclosure in the market and will be updating some of its published disclosure best practices papers.

The group recently completed revised best practices for local general obligation bonds, and released a draft of a revision to its water and sewer disclosure best practices in December. Other revised best practices are in early stages.

The NFMA’s annual conference this year will be held May 29 to June 1 in Coronado, Calif. and Francoeur will be moderating a municipal industry roundtable.

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