280 CapMarkets opens Seattle, Los Angeles offices

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LOS ANGELES -- A recently minted San Francisco broker-dealer that created a trading platform for independent advisors announced that it has opened new offices in Seattle and Los Angeles.

"Now we have four offices in total, so we feel good about our physical footprint as well as our capabilities," said Gurinder Ahluwalia, chief executive officer of 280 Cap Markets.

With the opening of the new offices, the firm is now 25 people strong.

The idea for the firm started as a "twinkle in the eye" of Dave Rudd, now head of institutional sales, Ahluwalia said.

"Five of us incubated the firm, but every member of the firm is an employee-owner," Ahluwalia said.

The other three are Josh Rasmussen, Tom Lockard and Prescott Nasser.

The company was formed in June 2016 and went live with its first trades in May.

Rudd’s idea grew out of the concept of providing better services for independent advisors, who aren’t connected to a bank or a larger company and don’t have an in-house trading platform.

“When they are attached to a large firm they have a trading desk working on their behalf,” Ahluwalia said. “When they break away or go independent, they have to seek out a solution on their own.

“We just hung up the phone with an advisor – and that is exactly the case where the advisor is frustrated, because he wants to focus on working with clients, not on the identification, sourcing and acquisition of individual securities," he said.

Because pricing in the municipal bond market continues to be opaque, independent registered investment advisors might end up not seeing bonds until they have traded several times and the pricing has soared.

“The worst thing for the RIAs is when they buy something for their client and the next day, they look at the prices and realize they have printed embedded loss in the capital base or maybe see something that would have been a better fit for their client,” Ahluwalia said.

Even with industry consolidation, the owners of 280 CapMarkets see enough demand to open the two new offices and are looking at opening one or two more in other areas of the country, Ahluwalia said. The firm also has an office in New York.

The initial push for 280 CapMarkets was into the tax-exempt municipal bond market but it also plans to offer services in taxable and corporate bonds, he said.

The name of the company references the Interstate 280 freeway, which connects Silcon Valley's San Jose to capital markets center San Francisco.

The two new hires in Seattle will focus on serving independent advisors who work with high-net retail customers, but the focus in Los Angeles will be on institutional sales.

The trio hired to lead those offices are Duncan Rowland in Los Angeles, and Jim Wilford and Trish Mitchell in Seattle.

Rowland, managing director of institutional sales for the Los Angeles office, was a director for Citigroup’s municipal securities division. He covers tier 1 institutional accounts.

Wilford, managing director of municipal trading in Seattle, comes to 280 with more than 30 years of municipal bond trading experience, including 20 years at Piper Jaffrey.

Mitchell, director of municipal trading in Seattle, comes to 280 with more than 20 years of municipal bond trading experience at Piper Jaffray.

“We can not only have a liaison desk that works with the advisor, but also a market-making desk and institutional sales desk," Rudd said. "Those desks can work in tandem to service the advisor and compete for advisors.”

"We are bringing in the right people at the right time in our firm's development," Rudd said. "It is less about geography and more about getting the right people. The culture is important and there is a service aspect to working with advisors."

The New York office all came from Credit Suisse and focuses on working with advisers in private banking. The Seattle hires are retail traders who worked for Piper Jaffray, which recently sold its wealth management arm.

In Los Angeles, "it's purely institutional at this point," Rudd said.

Of working in institutional as well as retail, "you have to have an engine doing institutional capabilities, so you have a pulse on the market," Ahluwalia said.

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