New York's task force on minority- and women-owned underwriting and financial services firms is looking at strategic partnerships as one way to increase those firms' participation, Dormitory Authority of the State of New York executive director Paul WilliamsJr. said yesterday.

"Historically in New York there's been a bias against partnering," Williams said. "Partnering in any context has been historically limited in [requests for proposals] ... We're going to take a look and examine it and determine whether or not that makes sense in the present day and age."

The task force will consider partnering both between minority- and women-owned business enterprises, and majority-owned firms, as well as partnering among MWBE firms, he said.

Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the Municipal Forum of New York, Williams announced that the task force held its first meeting on Monday and that he was named its chairman.

Gov. David Paterson in June formed the task force by executive order. It comprises the heads of five authorities that sell state personal income tax bonds as well as three gubernatorial appointees. The members voted on Monday to ask for an extension beyond the Sept. 1 deadline to create proposed guidelines. A public hearing on the issue is expected on Sept. 18 in New York City at which Williams said he wants to hear from the investment banking community.

The task force is focusing on creating policies for requests for proposals for underwriters and other financial service providers as well as creating a system to measure performance, Williams said. While he did not announce specific proposals he did speak in terms of what directions discussions were headed.

"Do you put together a static list of senior managers, co-managers, a selling group, or do you have a list that is geared around expertise or past performance in terms of execution? Or do you have a list that might also be flexible to allow firms to move from one list to another based upon some performance evaluation during the term of the RFP?" Williams said.

One area under consideration is how to consider firms' specializations.

"We want to look at those firms that have committed to provide us with the expertise and ideas and thinking in specialized areas as well as those firms who have been able to execute or distribute our paper to both the retail and institutional client base," Williams said. For example, that could mean that firms with strength in higher education deals could be considered for more complex higher education deals, he said.

While Williams said he applauded the New York State Thruway Authority for announcing a new MWBE policy in July that created the position of co-coordinating manager, the goal is to create a standard for issuers of state-backed debt.

"One of the things we think is important is the need for a unified approach to syndicate formation and identification of roles," he said. "Through the task force we'll have the opportunity to assess the various ideas, including that one, to determine what might make the best sense moving forward."

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