Karin R. Werness, a banker in public finance for more than 30 years whom colleagues said brought an intellectual and tireless vigor to her work, as well as a notable degree of style and grace, died last week. She was 64.
Ms. Werness last worked as senior vice president and lead banker in the Houston office of San Francisco-based Backstrom, McCarley Berry & Co., LLC. Throughout her career, she focused on healthcare and special districts, as well as civic activities that centered on the growth and development of the greater Houston area.
Ms. Werness, a Minnesota native and 30-year Houston resident, made a career in munis, covering primarily the south central region of the U.S. for major national and Wall Street firms.
Annise Parker, Houston’s mayor, knew Ms. Werness as a next-door neighbor and as a banker in municipal finance. Ms. Werness worked with the city as co-financial advisor and co-manager on numerous investment transactions that helped save Houston millions of dollars, Parker said.
“I am saddened by the passing of Karin Werness and have her family and friends in my thoughts,” she said. “She was influential at a time when there were not a lot of high level positions available for women in the financial industry.”
Prior to Backstrom, McCarley, she worked at Kipling Jones & Co., Estrada Hinojosa & Company, Inc., and Banc One Capital Markets. In the 1980s, she worked at E.F. Hutton.
Ms. Werness’ work concentrated on large municipal issuers and not-for-profits in Texas and surrounding states. Senior-managed clients included state issuers, agencies and authorities, hospitals and large city and county issuers.
Some of her clients included the Texas Water Development Board, Texas Public Finance Authority, Texas Veterans Land Board, Texas Transportation Authority, the University of Texas and others.
Ms. Werness joined Kipling Jones & Co. in 2009, approximately 15 months after it was founded, said Robbi Jones, the firm’s president. Her experience brought immediate dividends.
“This was a tremendous benefit to our firm as a member of the financial advisory team for the city of Houston,” Jones said. “As a direct result of her knowledge and experience in the healthcare industry, Kipling Jones & Co. was selected to serve as a member of the underwriting team for the Dallas County Hospital District (Parkland Hospital) 2009 transaction, which was a great opportunity for a new firm.”
Jones added that she was fortunate to be able to benefit from the experience and expertise of “a pioneering woman in the Texas public finance market.”
Stephen Claiborn, a managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, worked with Ms. Werness for more than a decade in the 1980s and 90s in Texas while at the firm Hutton and Shearson.
“She was smart and worked hard, but most importantly, she had a wonderfully positive attitude,” he said of Ms. Werness. “The whole Texas municipal finance family will miss her.”