Ex-Legg Mason analyst starts investment unitThere may...


Ex-Legg Mason analyst starts investment unit

There may be some investment analysts who don't want to be brokers, and some brokers who don't want to be portfolio managers. But Mike Walker isn't one of them.

The former Legg Mason analyst has been following his personally tailored universe of small-cap growth stocks at Chapin, Davis Inc. in Baltimore since March. Mr. Walker, who is 40 but insists he looks 39, also disseminates the results of his research to a group of area money managers. His clients, who know him as "The Disciplined Contrarian," pay him "for finding an idea they haven't seen before."

Now, Mr. Walker and a few colleagues at Chapin, Davis are launching an investment management service.

Mr. Walker plans to target Oak Tree Portfolio Management toward those who have $75,000 to $200,000 to invest.

Aside from individual stockbrokers, he said, there isn't anything geared toward that market among professional portfolio managers.

Oak Tree has received clearance from the Securities and Exchange Commission but awaits final approval from the

Maryland securities commissioner, Mr. Walker said.

"We thought we'd be done with all that by now," he said. "We've learned to wait."

New president of ABA may have Clinton's ear

The nation has already started to hear from those who insist they have the ear of President-elect Bill Clinton. Bill Blandon is one man with the resume to prove it.

The president and CEO of the First National Bank of Phillips County, in Helena, Ark., was appointed by Mr. Clinton to serve on several economic development commissions and has accompanied him on trade missions, including one to the Far East.

As newly elected president of the American Bankers Association, Mr. Blandon was in Baltimore this week to lunch with, and listen to the concerns of, Maryland bankers. At a briefing afterward, he insisted that Mr. Clinton has a soft spot for banking, which he considers "the vehicle of commerce."

He said the new president likely will support the development of community banks, such as the South Shore Bank in Chicago.

He added, "I don't think Clinton in the end will see the value of having 100 privately owned existing banks instead of the 10,000 privately owned existing banks."

Although he did not deny being interested in a federal appointment, he downplayed the possibility. For now, Mr. Blandon said he's happy leading the ABA and spreading the gospel of non-interference.

"Banks are tied down by regulations that are over 50 years old, and they aren't allowed to compete," he said. "And that will take its toll over time."

From Bill Blandon's mouth to Bill Clinton's ear is the bankers' prayer.

Legg Mason unit is host to Philippine officials

With capitalism flourishing in the strangest places, some Baltimore firms are trying to give new meaning to the term foreign affairs.

Tomorrow, for instance, Government Finance Group Inc., a Legg Mason Inc. subsidiary, will be host to a delegation of national, provincial and local government officials from the Philippines. They are on a two-week tour of the United States to learn how governments here -- at least the state governments -- make ends meet.

After a day of meetings today with U.S. agencies, including environmental protection, transportation, Treasury, the SEC, the World Bank and others, the group of nearly a dozen Filipinos will head here.

They will squeeze a tour of the port of Baltimore in between sessions with city and state economic development groups. Legg Mason will tutor the entourage on municipal securities underwriting and trading practices.

The Philippines recently has witnessed the end of barriers to local government borrowing, according to John Peterson, the Government Finance Group president who will be host of the Baltimore leg of the tour. The hope is that if a municipal bond market takes off, the island nation may establish a securities market next.

With any luck, Legg Mason could issue its annual Thanksgiving stock list in the South Pacific next year.

Finance association is turning upbeat

The Commercial Finance Association was surprisingly upbeat its convention late last month in Toronto, considering the state of the banking business lately. In fact, the industry, whose members engage in asset-based lending -- loans secured by pools of a borrower's assets -- has seen lending volume drop 10 percent to 15 percent from a peak of $100 billion two years ago.

Nonetheless, with problem loans on the decline, and sales among the industry's borrowers inching up lately, "We sometimes think that we might be a forerunner of things to come," said Frank J. Medeiros, group president of Sanwa Business Credit Corp. in Towson and newly elected president of the association.

Mr. Medeiros said one of the main goals for the association is to increase membership, especially internationally. The association has 1,500 individual members and 220 corporate members -- including most major U.S. banks.

The group also intends to establish an asset-based lending institute that would conduct a one-week crash course for new industry members.

For now, Mr. Medeiros has a message for his industry's potential customers: "We are out aggressively seeking loans."

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