Wells Fargo & Co. yesterday announced that it has hired industry veteran Peter Hill to head its public finance investment banking group.

Hill, who was the manager of public finance at Banc of America Securities LLC until late January, will now report to Phil Smith, head of Wells Fargo's government and institutional banking and the municipal products division.

Wells Fargo last year agreed to acquire Wachovia Corp. and is currently absorbing its businesses. Both firms' broker-dealer units - Wells Fargo Brokerage Services LLC and Wachovia Securities LLC - had been expanding their municipal groups into certain regions before the acquisition and together plan to be a top 10 firm.

"The announcement of Peter joining our team is really about getting the right leadership, of getting the two teams together, and to put us on the course to be a world-class provider of investment banking services," Smith said. "In a merger, you're classically bringing two teams together, and the fact that our company is making investments to bring in key leaders and talent shows our commitment to this business."

The combined firms served as senior manager on 74 issues with a par value of $1.78 billion in the first quarter of this year, ranking 10th, according to Thomson Reuters. Last year, the two combined would have been ranked ninth, underwriting a combined total of 499 issues with a par value of $12.8 billion.

The firm wants to leverage its leading position in government and institutional banking to grow its investment banking business. The merger has given the firm a national reach, with little geographic overlap between the individual legacy firms.

Wells Fargo's culture is also set up well to take advantage of the Build America Bonds program, which requires coordination between the tax-exempt and taxable teams. Especially on taxable deals of over $200 million, a bank is doing clients a "disservice" if it doesn't bring in all its distribution and expertise on the corporate side, Smith said.

The investment bank will look to take advantage of the best opportunities within Wells Fargo's more than 5,000-client base on the government and institutional banking side.

"This is not a Wall Street or a regional investment banking strategy; it's a universal bank strategy," Smith said.

Hill, a 25-year public finance veteran, will lead a staff of 165 people across 28 offices in the public finance investment banking group.

Hill joins Wells Fargo after less than a year as manger of public finance of Banc of America Securities. Hill left Banc of America as it has been integrating its staff with the municipal group at Merrill Lynch & Co. as a result of its acquisition.

Prior to Banc of America, Hill served as an executive vice president and head of public finance at ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. He has also served as a managing director and head of public finance for JPMorgan.

Hill and Smith have known each other since meeting on the board of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board and have crossed paths with each other many times in the past.

"I, of course, saw him going out of clients' office when I was going in to pitch, and he won more of those than I did, by the way," Smith said with a laugh. "At JPMorgan, he was a fierce competitor. If I can't beat somebody, I'll just hire him."

Smith did not mention specific plans for additions to the group now that Hill is in place, but said that the group was "looking at what strategic additions we want to make."

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