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VOL. 126 | NO. 35 | Monday, February 21, 2011

Dollar Signs

Memphis investment firms see strong growth

By Andy Meek

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From wealth management to accounting to investment firms, plenty of financial services companies in Memphis are enjoying a robust level of growth that might seem surprising to an outsider.

Jack Stokes, institutional salesperson speaks to a client on the equity trading floor at Morgan Keegan & Co. (Photo: Lance Murphey)

Yet it’s clear the economic recovery is well under way, and companies with strong fundamentals are reaping rewards.

Red Door Wealth Management, for example, got its start in Memphis one year ago. It set a target of between $15 million and $25 million in assets in its six-month projections and ultimately came in north of $30 million.

Waddell & Associates recently established an employee stock ownership plan to strengthen the tie between the company and its stable of financial planners. The firm saw its assets under management double from about $300 million in 2003 to $600 million today.

Dixon Hughes PLLC, one of the largest accounting firms in Memphis and the largest based in the southern U.S., announced last month it’s merging with another firm, Goodman & Co. LLP. The combined firm will be known as Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP and will be headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.

The growth is even more dramatic among Memphis’ largest investment banking operations, many of which are in the throes of hiring new employees and opening new offices.

One obvious example is Morgan Keegan & Co., the Memphis-based investment banking arm of Alabama-based Regions Financial Corp.

Morgan Keegan kicked off 2011 with plans to open several new offices in the Northeast and with the addition of new executives to the firm’s public finance and investment banking teams, to name a few examples.

The firm has added two consumer investment bankers with nearly 40 years of combined experience to the firm’s consumer investment banking practice. A new senior vice president has been added to Morgan Keegan’s public finance group in New York City.

Morgan Keegan has tasked James Dornan, a former Washington-area branch manager for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, with leading the firm’s expansion in Washington and Baltimore.

Morgan Keegan was the ninth leading underwriter of municipal bonds in the country for 2010, according to Thomson Reuters.

“In the last six months, I’ve hired two new senior analysts, and one is following infrastructure software – the technology space – and one is following the energy space,” said Elkan Scheidt, a managing director and director of equity research for Morgan Keegan. “We’ve also opened a San Francisco office. I’ve never had a research analyst on the West Coast, and that could potentially open up some more opportunities, being so close to the tech industry.”

Scheidt said he currently has around two dozen analysts and is looking to add as many as four. Areas for additions include health care, with what Scheidt said is the potential for an additional two analysts there.

“We’re hiring in Houston, which brings opportunities being close to the energy sector there,” he said. “We’re looking to hire another energy analyst.”

Morgan Keegan created an investment banking division last March. Rob Baird, the division’s president, said the firm is looking for more senior bankers to add.

Wunderlich Securities, meanwhile, added several new offices in multiple states in 2010. The firm now has more than 400 employees and administers almost $4 billion in client assets.

Morgan Keegan veteran Ed Brundick recently joined the Memphis-based full service brokerage and investment banking firm Duncan-Williams Inc. as a managing director and the head of its private client group.

Brundick will be responsible for building out the full-service financial advisory platform of Duncan-Williams’ private client group.

Duncan-Williams Inc., which has around 170 employees and offices in 11 states, sold more than $75 billion of bonds over the past five years. As Brundick’s hire shows, the firm continues adding talent, including the recent addition of Irina Rivkind to its expanding equity capital markets division.

Rivkind joined the firm’s New York office as senior vice president several months ago.

The firm is continuing to open new offices. Duncan-Williams opened a new branch in Atlanta at the end of last year and hired Tom Bryan, the former president and CEO of Silverton Bank in Atlanta, to head it up.

The firm continues to close in on a goal it established in 2009 to reach $500 million in annual revenue by its 50th anniversary, eight years from now.

PROPERTY SALES 83 317 13,368
MORTGAGES 56 208 8,379
BUILDING PERMITS 361 518 31,196
BANKRUPTCIES 34 113 6,333