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NEW YORK, June 17 (Reuters) - Well-known municipal bond investor Tom Metzold on Tuesday announced his retirement after 28 years at Eaton Vance Management.
Metzold, who looks like a bruiser but is an affable straight-talker, went to work at Eaton Vance in 1987 right out of graduate school at State University of New York at Albany.
There's a silver lining for fans, though: he's moving to MBIA Inc. subsidiary National Public Finance Guarantee Corp. He will lead National's secondary markets business and coordinate outreach to trading desks. He leaves Eaton Vance, which manages $28 billion in municipal assets, on July 31 and starts at National three days later.
Here, Tom discusses investing and why he's pushing for a muni bond insurance comeback.
REUTERS: What will you be doing at National? METZOLD: We'll look to reenergize and reinvigorate and bring National back to one of the leaders in the insurance industry.
This is part of the grand strategy and plan to emerge from the depths of the financial crisis, become a phoenix rising from the ashes.
REUTERS: Why did you leave Eaton Vance? METZOLD: I had been thinking about retiring anyway. I had casually mentioned it to Tom Weyl (head of new business development) at National. He used to be our head of credit research. He said if you're going to retire, I need somebody like you who can press the flesh. I had planned to ride off into the sunset.
There's no ill will. When I told the staff, I started getting choked up. The department is more than strong enough to handle this.
One of the really positive aspects of the Detroit bankruptcy was the solid financial footing of the insurers. They've made every payment. Detroit's come out better as a result. The value of municipal bond insurance has come out in spades. Puerto Rico will be another example of that.
REUTERS: At National, will you have to toe the line between fearmonger and optimist? METZOLD: I don't want Puerto Rico to default, for a lot of reasons. As someone who owns a lot of munis I don't want that to have a major impact on our market. And as someone who's going to soon join National, they have billions of dollars of exposure to Puerto Rico.
But if it's going to happen, and it proves the value of the insurance, then let's use that to our advantage to reassure people that's why you bought it in the first place.
REUTERS: What was your best call? METZOLD: Recently, loading up the boat on Detroit water and sewer bonds... It's more about being a relative value investor. There's not a lot of home runs, just a lot of singles and doubles.
REUTERS: What will you miss most? METZOLD: The camaraderie. Particularly when you work on a trading desk. You spend eight, nine, 10 hours straight with people, day in and day out, shoulder to shoulder. Those relationships will forever mark you and have their place in your memory. (Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Andrew Hay)