Baird has remained committed to building one of the most effective fixed income teams in the middle market, even during periods marked by lower financing activity and reduced sales and trading volumes. In the past five years, we have increased our staff of skilled professionals by 25%, which has enabled our Sales and Trading and Public Finance teams to continue to broaden our national footprint, enhance our analytical skills and expand our product offerings.
Baird’s Sales and Trading team focused on staying close to institutional clients during the quiet fixed income markets that prevailed during most of 2014. With low market volatility and limited new-issue origination, our Sales and Trading desks were more active in the secondary markets for taxable and tax-exempt bonds. This enabled our team to show clients opportunities to refine their portfolio holdings, with ideas backed by the research insights and portfolio analytics we have deepened in recent years. Our national presence, with 26 Sales and Trading offices across the country, also facilitated close partnerships with clients.
We continue to look for opportunities to build our fixed income businesses. Despite slow markets, Baird’s team of 36 high-yield specialists, formed in 2013, had a very successful year. We also maintained our ranking as the nation’s top municipal underwriter in 2014, based on the number of issues. In fact, we underwrote 41% more issues than our nearest competitor, according to IPREO MuniAnalytics. We also ranked fifth in the nation for competitive issues, based on par value.
Baird’s Public Finance team used the quiet new-issue markets of the first half of 2014 to provide clients with insights on their budgets, cash flows and refinancing opportunities, adding value beyond the transaction. Providing these non-deal-related consulting services helps to maintain the strong relationships that underpin Baird’s continuing success as an underwriter or advisor to clients in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
The investments we have made in our Public Finance professional team over the past five years have given Baird national expertise in key sectors of the middle market. In addition to our strength in municipal finance, we offer specialized expertise in Healthcare, Structured Finance and Education funding. Baird has become one of the nation’s top two underwriters of public education and charter school bonds, based on the number of issues. During 2014, we opened Public Finance offices in Houston and the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area.