“We’ve really been looking for the right people to help us enter [the K-12] market. These are the right people,” said Peter Miller, a PFM managing director.

LOS ANGELES - The PFM Group has hired three new public finance professionals away from a rival to boost the firm's K-12 education practice in the Golden State.

The firm announced Tuesday that KNN Public Finance veterans David Olson, Makiko Sato, and Diego Gourtzelis have joined the firm's San Francisco office.

The office has been involved in some school district work over the years, but hasn't really focused on the sector until recently, said Peter Miller, managing director of PFM's financial advisory practice in the western United States.

"We've been looking to expand into the K-12 market for a number of years, and we've really been looking for the right people to help us enter that market," Miller said in an interview. "These are the right people."

Nationwide, PFM ranked number one in the K-12 sector in 2013, working on 193 issues worth $4.3 billion, according to Thomson Reuters. The firm had an 8.3% market share of K-12 deals nationally.

In California's K-12 market, the firm ranked 12th last year, working on 2 deals worth $127.2 million..

"We certainly wanted to continue to expand, and for us, it was truly about finding the right people who fit in well with our culture and our approach," Miller said. "That's what it comes down to — wanting to enter a market that we think we can play a role in, provide services where we haven't historically, and do it with people that we enjoy working with."

Olson, who has spent over 26 years in public finance, will take on the role of a director in PFM's K-12 education practice. He has experience assisting school districts throughout California in developing and implementing long-term bond programs focused on the objectives of transparency and sustainability.

Most recently, Olson served as a managing director at KNN Public Finance. He earned his bachelor's degree from Yale University.

"PFM is well known for its depth of resources and technical capabilities, and we look forward to using these resources to benefit our school district clients," Olson said in a statement. "Given the growth of the sector and the increased emphasis on best practices, this is a good time for PFM to expand its efforts in this area, and I believe that we will be a major force in the near-term future."

Sato, who was a vice president at KNN, will serve as a senior managing consultant at PFM. She has over ten years of experience in the municipal finance industry, including work with both tax-backed and general-fund backed debt, as well as interim and cash-flow financings.

Sato holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree in public administration from New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She is also a chartered financial analyst.

Gourtzelis, who was an analyst at KNN, will also serve as an analyst for PFM. He will be providing analytical and quantitative support for the firm's K-12 clients and prospects on general obligation bonds, tax and revenue anticipation notes, and general fund-backed leases.

He received his bachelor's degree in business accounting from Biola University in La Mirada, Calif.

"We'll continue to look for the right people and the right opportunities to grow the practice throughout the firm and in the west — whether it's in K-12 or other markets in which we generally have not played a significant role," Miller said. "We've always been on the lookout."

PFM Group includes Public Financial Management, Inc., which offers financial advisory services to a broad base of local, state, and regional government and non-profit clients throughout the United States.

Public Financial Management has been the top-ranked independent municipal advisory firm in the nation for 16 years. It was ranked number one for the first quarter of 2014, with 142 issues totaling $7.7 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

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