New Trade Group for Bond Firms

Association Run by Two SIFMA Defectors

Posted March 10, 2008 at 6:50pm

The nation’s economic woes have put the financial services sector front and center, and that is translating into growth for the industry’s presence in the nation’s capital.

Late last week, 14 companies announced that they had formed a new trade association, the Regional Bond Dealers Association, to represent their interests in Washington, D.C. And they’ve hired two employees from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association: Michael Decker and Mike Nicholas, who will serve as co-chief executive officers.

According to one founding member, the new group will have a budget of roughly $1 million; Decker and Nicholas disputed that figure, saying the budget will ultimately depend on the number of members.

The idea for the regional bond group, whose members are U.S. companies specializing in small- to medium-sized domestic transactions, gained traction as far back as 2006, according to sources, when the former Bond Market Association and Securities Industry Association decided to merge, creating SIFMA.

“Regional bond dealers feel like they would benefit from having an organization focused just on their needs,” Decker said.

The RBDA will focus on such issues as capital markets regulation and tax policy that affect the bond markets.

It will not zero in on international issues that are a priority for Wall Street firms.

“A lot of our members don’t really have very large or active business overseas,” Decker said. “A lot of the global, New York-based firms are making big investments overseas, and so a lot of their issues, priorities have to do with how U.S. law affects their ability to do business overseas. That won’t be on our agenda at all.”

Demetri Patikas, executive vice president of regional bond company Duncan-Williams Inc., a founding member of the new group, said that SIFMA had made overtures to his company but that Duncan-Williams never had joined.

“What appealed to us about the Regional Bond Dealers Association was being able to gather together a group of like-minded firms and have it start and end with that,” Patikas said.

Among the new group’s other members are Crews & Associates, FTN Financial and Wells Fargo Brokerage Services LLC. Eight of the 14 members still belong to SIFMA and most are likely to remain at both trade associations, according to industry sources.

At SIFMA, Nicholas was a point person on regional bond companies, serving as the managing director for the capital markets group. Decker was senior managing director for research and public policy at SIFMA and came from the Bond Market Association.

In an e-mailed statement, SIFMA Senior Managing Director for Global Strategic Communications Christina Martin said: “On a personal level, we wish Michael Decker and Mike Nicholas all the best; during their service at SIFMA they were fine colleagues. SIFMA remains committed to representing the specific needs of all our members, including our regional bond dealer members.”

SIFMA has not replaced either Decker or Nicholas. When SIFMA first started, it, too, had co-CEOs, both of whom have been replaced by one CEO.

At RBDA, Decker will focus more on public policy and advocacy, while Nicholas is in charge of association member relations and business development. “He also makes the coffee,” Nicholas said of Decker.