Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities only started senior managing municipal borrowings a decade ago, but after a few years of rapid growth the firm is setting itself ambitious goals.
The financial services and investment bank, which has been involved in public finance in various ways since its founding in 1955, now seeks to be top underwriter on the West Coast.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get to the par amount of the big boys, but as far as numbers of transactions go, our goal is to be the number one underwriter of public finance on the West Coast,” said Gary Wedbush, executive vice president and head of capital markets.
The bank has been senior manager on 40 regional issues so far this year totaling $600 million, according to Thomson Reuters. That ranks it 15th in California, by volume, and easily puts the firm on track to triple the $206 million of deals it led in 2008. It has already passed the $528 million volume it underwrote last year.
Wedbush said the bank, founded by his father and bank president Edward Wedbush, was centered on equities for more than 30 years when it began to push into fixed income about 10 years ago. Public finance was a natural place to start to serve private clients, he said.
The timing worked out pretty well. The bank laid a foundation for business and senior-managed a few dozen deals in the years leading up to the financial crisis. When larger banks collapsed, merged, or left muni underwriting, Wedbush was in a position to take advantage of a new pool of talent and expand its operations.
“A lot of our growth is fueled by the credit crisis,” Wedbush said. “We never had an opportunity before then to hire the kind of talent that became available.”
One of the most recent senior hires added to the roster is James Dolan, who joined the public finance group in Boston in July as head of institutional sales.
Dolan’s 27-year career began at Lehman Brothers, where he worked for 15 years. Befor joining Wedbush, Dolan was co-manager of the muni division at Finacorp Securities, and he also was a founding partner and chief executive officer of Alta Capital Group LLC.
Other recent hires on the sales team include Mitch Asch and Dennis Dicicco in Boston, and Jeff Molinari in New York.
While the bank’s sales team is spread across the country, its underwriting efforts are focused solely in the west, namely in the California, Arizona, and Pacific Northwest regions.
“We’re looking into expanding in Colorado and other states alongside California, and bolstering those areas with good bankers with different types of expertise,” Wedbush said.
Richard DeProspo leads the California public finance team, which includes nine muni professionals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Solana Beach, and Newport Beach.
Jim Stricklin oversees the Arizona public finance team, which includes five public finance professionals and five people in trading and institutional sales.
David Ulbricht heads the Northwest division from Portland. The group includes six professionals in Boise, Portland, Seattle, and Salt Lake City. The Portland office most recently named Ron Lehr senior vice president. An affordable housing specialist, Lehr joined after serving 15 years with KeyBanc Capital Markets.
Bruce Allred also joined the Salt Lake City office in July as senior vice president. Alred was formerly a director at Wells Fargo Securities where he managed the quantitative analysis group for public finance.
Doug Charchenko, Wedbush’s head of fixed income, said the public finance team will continue to focus on the West Coast, but it is also putting into place resources to specialize in certain sectors, such as multifamily housing, which could allow it to get past any geographical barriers.