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FHN Financial makes banking move into Ohio

FHN Financial Capital Markets now has banking boots on the ground in Ohio with the hiring of Kathleen Clark.

Clark joined the firm as a vice president in Columbus earlier this month after more than two decades at Fifth Third Securities where she worked on more than $5 billion of bond and note financings.

Clark will provide coverage of Ohio-based borrowers primarily in the kindergarten through 12th grade education sector as well as cities and counties with the intent of reaching further across the Midwest by providing technical and analytical assistance for issuers and deals outside of Ohio.

Clark has broad experience on the rating agency process and credit enhancement, including the use of Ohio’s Credit Enhancement Program, FHN said.

“Kathleen is well known to issuers across Ohio and so gives us more depth both quantitatively and from an issuer relationship perspective not just in Ohio but in the Midwest,” said the firm’s national public finance head, Ajay Thomas. FHN is the investment banking arm of Memphis-based First Horizon Bank. Public finance is based in Texas where Thomas is located.

Clark joined Fifth Third 24 years ago, soon after graduating from Miami University. She earned a master of business administration from Ohio Dominican University. Clark also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Ohio Municipal Advisory Council, which provides municipal bond industry participants with statistical data relating to Ohio municipal securities.

Columbus-based public finance banker Kathleen Clark has joined FHN Financial.

“Ohio has always been a part of strategic expansion plan,” Thomas said. The firm already does investor depository work in the state and has an existing fixed income sales office. “We wanted to further develop the market there and you have to have local bankers in Ohio. Fortunately, we were able to get someone of Kathleen’s caliber.”

Thomas said the firm is talking to other bankers in the state as it looks to bulk up in Ohio and beyond. The firm launched its first banking foray into the Midwest market with the hiring of Melanie Shaker as a senior vice president in Chicago. Shaker joined the firm’s existing Chicago office that houses sales professionals in May.

Earlier this year Emily Berry joined the firm as a vice president from Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in the firm’s New York City and Rene Moreno, who came from Crew & Associates, established a banking presence in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he is a senior vice president.

The firm has 22 bankers based Chicago, Columbus, Scottsdale, New York, Charlotte, Tampa, Birmingham, Connecticut, and four Texas offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

“We continue to actively recruit and hire strategically to add depth and get into new sectors” such as healthcare, utilities, and higher education, Thomas said in an interview. The firm has access to $8.67 billion in capital for municipal underwriting.

Thomas joined the firm in 2017 to lead a makeover and expansion. The number of bankers is actually down slightly from when Thomas took over and most who were there at the time no longer remain. Thomas envisions bringing the number of bankers up to 40 in the next few years.

The firm finished last year in the 19th slot among senior managers nationally up from 20th in 2020, 23rd in 2019, and 24th in 2018, according to data from Refinitiv.

In 2020, First Horizon and Iberia Bank merged and adopted a municipal growth strategy after a name change in 2019.

In February TD Bank Group announced a definitive agreement to acquire First Horizon Corp. and all its assets including the capital markets division. The deal remains under regulatory review is expected to close in the first quarter of TD’s fiscal year that begins Nov. 1.

TD operates its own investment banking group, so how the bank merger in the future will impact FHN is not yet clear. Both public finance departments continue to “operate independently and we are operating business as usual,” Thomas said.

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