UBS exiting negotiated muni underwriting business

UBS’s Public Finance Group will be exiting the negotiated underwriting business, according to an internal company memo.

The firm will “pursue alternative solutions to access the new-issue market” and reposition its resources “to focus on where [it] sees increasing client and advisor demand,” the memo noted. The transition to solely focus on competitive underwriting is believed to be completed by early 2024.

A spokesperson confirmed the contents of the memo, which was sent to the group from Jason Chandler, head of Global Wealth Management, Americas, and Patrick Grob, head of GWM Unified Global Markets at UBS.

Doug Vissicchio, head of municipal trading, which includes competitive underwriting at the firm, will continue to lead UBS’s municipal trading business.

Steve Genyk, current head of public finance at the firm, and Angelia Schmidt, current head of negotiated underwriting, will “focus on evaluating the most effective ways to provide access to new-issue municipal products,” along with managing “the existing public finance deal pipeline and … current public finance related engagements during this transitional period,” the memo said.

Layoffs in the public finance group could not be confirmed at this time but are likely.

Earlier this year the firm cut 20% of its overall municipal team, which included banking, sales, trading and underwriting, mainly affecting the public finance banking group.

Bloomberg News

UBS said it sees this change as enabling the firm to “reinvest in new products and services” for its clients,” the memo said.

The firm remains “focused on providing competitive solutions and products and, aligned with rising interest rates and increased client interest, have expanded our municipal trading and sales teams,” the memo noted.

This contributed to growth in 2022 and 2023, with last year seeing more than a 100% increase in trading volumes, the memo stated.

UBS did not make the top 15 underwriters during the first three quarters of 2023. UBS ranked 16th overall in 2022.

The firm exited the municipal underwriting business completely in 2008 after seeing billions of losses from the financial crisis. 

UBS returned to the municipal underwriting business in 2017 with the hiring of Peter Hill as head of public finance from Wells Fargo. Hill’s hiring was to help lead the firm’s work with public markets issuers on the origination and underwriting of muni deals.  

Hill left in October 2022 after more than five years as head of public finance, helping to rebuild its public finance department. Upon Hill’s departure Genyk — who was brought in 2017 from Janney Montgomery Scott as head of the municipal trading team — became the new head of public finance.

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