Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. opened a New York City office headed by public finance veteran Frank C. Oh, the St. Louis based-firm announced last week. The office will focus, at least initially, on New York and New Jersey municipal bond deals.

As large investment banking firms, dragged down by toxic assets, have laid off staff or left the business, mid-level firms have seen an opportunity.

"Issuers are going to welcome a firm like Stifel that is more solid and isn't going through this turmoil like a lot of the majors are," Oh said. "You don't know who's going to be around next year so [issuers are] looking for firms that are more stable and they're finding that with the regional players."

New York's issuers of personal income tax bonds have begun issuing requests for proposals for underwriters since a new set of guidelines was finalized and Stifel is responding, Oh said.

"Those programs are big enough where a firm like Stifel could be value added," he said. "Its difficult to imagine us a senior manager [on those deals] but as co-manager we have a huge retail presence in New York and New Jersey, so I think those issuers would benefit from those retail capabilities."

The office is small for now, with just one other banker, Corey E. McCullough, who had been an analyst at Citi. Oh said he expects the office will eventually add two to three more people.

"It's going to be a slow process," he said of the new hiring. "There are people who are going to be affected by this [economic] downturn so we are going to be selective."

Oh joined Stifel from Goldman, Sachs & Co. after he and dozens of public finance bankers were laid off in November. Prior to joining Goldman in 2004, he had been a banker at UBS Securities LLC for 11 years. At those firms he worked on deals with some of the state's biggest issuers including Empire State Development Corp., New York State Thruway Authority, and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989. While working at the New York City comptroller's office, he earned an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Management in 1995.

Last year Stifel senior managed $1.65 billion of deals, ranking 28th nationally, and co-managed $1.31 billion of deals, according to Thomson Reuters.

Stifel is expanding and opened its first office in Texas last year. In 2007, Stifel increased its presence in the Northeast by acquiring Ryan Beck & Co. The firm has nearly doubled its public finance staff in the past year from roughly 25 people to about 60, said Stifel senior vice president, director of public finance Peter Czajkowski.

"Public finance is a core business to Stifel," Czajkowski said in a press release. "Opening a New York office will facilitate our ability to provide clients with value-added service within the Northeast."

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