In an effort to centralize its existing equity and fixed-income investment banking operations and increase its overall revenue and market share, Memphis-based Morgan Keegan & Co. has announced the formation of a new, broader investment banking division to be headed by 31-year company veteran Robert A. Baird.

Baird joined the firm in 1979 as one of its first investment bankers. He took the helm as president of the new division on Monday, the company announced yesterday.

He assumed the new position after spending the past two years as president of the fixed-income capital markets division, which formerly included fixed-income investment banking, an effort Baird also headed since 1996.

The new division brings together more than 300 of the firm's professionals who specialize in either corporate or public finance banking.

"Investment banking is the focus of our future growth as a firm," John C. Carson, chief executive of Morgan Keegan, said in a release. "Our new investment-banking division gives us the ability to deliver our products and services in a more coordinated fashion through the strong distribution network we already have in place."

Bankers will continue to hone their respective skills and work on their core clients -- corporate accounts among equity bankers, and public-sector accounts among public finance bankers -- but there will also be opportunity for partnering on some transactions, Baird said in an interview yesterday.

For example, a public finance banker and an equity banker might work together on a tax-exempt special facilities refunding for a corporate borrower, such as Federal Express, he said.

Baird said the move "is in no way an indication of reducing our emphasis in the growth of public finance."

"We think it will be a primary engine for growth in revenues," he said. "We have an idea of where the firm wants to take the market share and growth, and we believe we can achieve and make significant progress toward those goals in the next 24 to 36 months."

Under the new structure, executive managing director John H. "Chip" Grayson will continue to head the equity investment banking division, which he has done for over five years, and will now report to Baird.

Kevin Giddis has assumed Baird's previous position as president of fixed-income capital markets, which includes sales, trading, and research efforts. He reports to Carson.

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