John Feery joins William Blair & Co. as head of its municipal negotiated sales group.

CHICAGO — Chicago-based William Blair & Co. has hired veteran underwriting manager John Feery to head negotiated municipal underwriting, finalizing leadership team changes as the firm pursues a national expansion path.

Feery recently joined the firm as a managing director. He left Stephens, Inc. where he led municipal negotiated underwriting, to join Blair. He previously held a similar role at Raymond James and before that spent 25 years at UBS/PaineWebber until that firm exited the municipal business.

Feery will report to Christopher Tota, head of sales and trading and Ajay Thomas, head of public finance banking.

Tom Lanctot, the firm's head of debt capital markets, lured Tota and several members of his team from De La Rosa & Co. to establish a Los Angeles office last year, then hired Thomas and four other members from his team at Robert W. Baird & Co. to launch a push into the Texas market.

"Adding John, with his caliber of talent, is the final leadership piece we needed to do what we said we want to do, building out our platform across the country," Thomas said in an interview Tuesday.

Thomas said it remains too early to lay out goals on volume or league table rankings, but said the firm is aiming to "be a factor in every market where we compete," seeking out senior manager positions as it broadens its platform and reputation as a regional firm into a national one.

The firm has made headway winning senior manager roles on deals in California, Michigan, and Texas, Thomas said.

Feery, who has known Thomas for more than 20 years as both a competitor and colleague — the two overlapped for several years at Raymond James — said he had no quarrel with Stephens. He saw the move to Blair as an opportunity to join a firm in growth mode with a mandate to "expand fixed-income to match the growth" of other divisions at the firm.

The partnership structure of the independent, employee-owned investment banking firm that allows for direct access to key decision-makers also appealed to him as did the firm's ability to attract professionals like Tota and Thomas.

He quoted John D. Rockefeller: "Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."

Feery will work from the firm's Chicago and New York City offices. Phil Gutman had previously led underwriting. He will focus now more on the competitive side of the business, Thomas said.

The firm has also made several other new additions, including John Kozak who joined recently as a municipal bond trader. He has worked in trading for the last 16 years and most recently worked at Citi. Elizabeth West also recently was hired for the sales team.

The firm continues to eye strategic hires in some key markets. Blair's expansion comes as volume has shrunk and market participants have long speculated that layoffs loom at firms across the country.

The firm employs about 20 in its banking group with the wider municipal group including sales, trading and underwriting totaling more than 45 in offices that include Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, San Antonio, Hartford, and Detroit.

Blair ranked 35th nationally among senior managers in 2014, credited by Thomson Reuters with $926.7 million of bonds in 68 deals.

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