01/20/2012

PrinceRidge Building Army of MBS Brokers

PrinceRidge Group is expanding its mortgage-bond brokerage desk.

The New York firm aims to hire 30 traders and sales professionals for the effort, which would double the number of staffers it currently has assigned to home-loan securities. Leading the buildup is Barry Berkeley, a longtime player in the bond market who arrived Jan. 3 as head of the division.

Berkeley, who most recently headed the institutional fixed-income division at brokerage firm Sterne Agee & Leach, is focusing initially on interviewing potential recruits. PrinceRidge apparently has promised him the capital needed to bring in five traders in New York and 25 sales specialists who would be stationed in offices across the U.S. — including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Berkeley already has filled several of the positions. One of the hires is characterized as a well-known trader. The others are sales professionals. They’ll start Feb. 1.

From there, Berkeley hopes to build up his staff as quickly as possible. He has been fielding inquiries from a growing field of candidates that include former colleagues and market players who recently were displaced in layoffs at banks such as Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley. “People know I’m here and building up a division, while at the same time there’s been a lot of disruption out there in the workforce,” Berkeley said. “This is a unique opportunity and a great time to build and get great people.”

PrinceRidge’s pursuit of a larger presence as a mortgage-bond trader reflects a desire by the firm to re-focus on its core business as a broker-dealer following a failed attempt to become a full-service investment bank with a concentration on structured finance. That effort started in 2009, when founders John Costas and Mike Hutchens hired Bill Haley to lead a group that would advise clients on funding strategies — and manage their securitizations. It ended with Haley’s resignation in September. Also gone are structured-product banker Nicholas Anderson and David Kaplan, a managing director who had been in charge of mortgage-bond sales and trading.

In addition to home-loan securities, PrinceRidge’s brokerage business encompasses residential mortgage portfolios, asset-backed securities, commercial mortgage instruments and various types of corporate debt.

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