Siebert sees promising terrain in Texas with two hires

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Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., one of the nation’s top co-managers on municipal bond deals, sees opportunity to grow in Texas with two key hires in its Dallas office, said Gary Hall, partner and head of investment banking for the firm.

Industry veterans Levi Davis and Ron Morrison bring years of experience and relationships to the firm’s operations in the state, Hall said.

“We’ve had a pretty rich history of doing deals in the Dallas area,” Hall said. “Bringing Levi back and having Ron adds a real 1-2 punch.”

The deep credentials of the two executives show that “our firm is growing, reaching new heights in the industry and planning to be an even bigger competitor in municipal finance,” Hall said.

Davis, a two-time veteran of the firm under varied ownership, is returning as managing director after six years as assistant city manager for Dallas — his third stint in that role, as well. Davis’ career includes 15 years at various incarnations of the 23-year-old firm that carved a niche as a minority and woman-owned municipal finance specialist.

“It’s like coming home,” Davis told The Bond Buyer. “It’s an exciting opportunity. I love the competition of going after the transaction, doing services that are creative. I’m kind of an entrepreneur at heart.”

After completing military service, Davis began his career with the city of Dallas in 1973 as director of the Action Center. He became director of the Office of Human Development in 1977 and was assistant city manager from 1978 to 1986 and again from 1990 to 1998.

Joining Davis in the Dallas office is former Citigroup managing director Ron Morrison, who will carry the same title at Siebert.

Morrison has worked with big municipal issuers including the North Texas Tollway Authority, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Texas Department of Transportation, the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, the Texas Turnpike Authority and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, among others.

Prior to Citigroup, Morrison was managing director and co-head of Texas municipal finance at RBC Capital Markets. During his career, he has served as financial advisor or investment banker on the issuance of more than $60 billion in financings.

“I’ve been very impressed with the firm’s continued growth in the state and in the whole region,” Morrison said of SCSCO. “We are poised to achieve even more in the future.”

In addition to its Texas expansion, SCSCO is adding former Wells Fargo banker Jamiyl Flemming as senior vice president in the New York office, where he will work with Northeast issuers.

Over his 15-year career, Flemming has worked with clients that include the City of New York, State of New York, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, State of Connecticut, among others.

Flemming was vice president in Wells Fargo’s government and institutional banking division in New York. He was previously an investment banking at Jeffries & Company. He has also taught public finance and underwriting to members of the Municipal Forum of New York Urban Leadership Fellows Program for a decade.

Siebert Brandford Shank was founded in 1996 by the late Muriel Siebert, the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Shank and Napoleon Brandford III, who has retired, were co-founders with chief executive and majority owner Suzanne Shank, who is based in Detroit. The company’s headquarters are in New York and Oakland, Calif.

With 17 offices nationwide, the evolving firm has managed more than $1.4 trillion of municipal bonds and $1.1 trillion of corporate bond and equity transactions since its founding.

A major milestone came in 2010 when the firm became the first owned by a minority or a woman to rank in the top 10 among municipal bond underwriters. Prior to entering public finance career, Shank, the majority owner, was an engineer with General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division, where she worked as a design engineer on various design projects.

The firm deepened its connection to Texas in 2015 when former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros bought an ownership stake in the firm. Cisneros, who was also former head of Housing and Urban Development, had his name added to the firm the next year.

In February, Cisneros and Shank launched a new firm known as American Triple-I Partners (infrastructure, innovation, investment) to provide private equity for infrastructure across the country. Triple-I shares the field with the largest U.S. players Blackstone, Global Infrastructure Partners, and JPMorgan. The firms are geared toward public-private partnerships, with Triple-I specializing in transportation, knowledge and information, and Smart City projects.

In 2016, Siebert brought Morgan Stanley executive director Keith Richard back to the firm as managing director and head of the Texas region, operating out of the Houston office. After beginning his career at Siebert, Richard also worked with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers.

“Texas is a crucially important market for our firm, and we have an extremely strong team here,” Richard said. “The addition of Levi and Ron will serve to make us an even more formidable presence in Texas, particularly in the Dallas area.”

Hall said the opportunity in Texas was evident in last month's bond elections, with voters strongly supporting record issuance of nearly $10 billion statewide.

Although SCSCO ranks in the top 20 of senior managers, its role as co-manager on major deals adds to its reputation and networking capability, said Hall, who currently is chair of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

With underwriter spreads and supply falling amid growing demand for munis, competition has grown increasingly intense, Hall said.

“We’ve seen some contraction among firms, just given the uber-competiveness,” Hall said. “So, it’s critically important that we have a sales desk that is known to add value. We have to earn our way up the syndicate based on our relationships and credibility with investors.”

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