CHICAGO -- The rivalry between public finance groups at Chicago's Harris Trust & Savings Bank and local securities firm Griffin, Kubik, Stephens & Thompson Inc. has intensified this month after coveted employees from both groups switched camps.

Two vice presidents in the Harris public finance group, Tom Wingader and John Repsholdt, left the bank earlier this month for Griffin Kubik. Around the same time, Harris hired a group of five public finance experts away from Griffin Kubik, officials at both concerns confirmed yesterday.

Three of the bankers defecting from Chicago-based Griffin Kubik are returning to the Harris fold for a second tour of duty, according to David Harmon, vice president and general manager of the municipal bond department at Harris.

Public finance manager William Hepworth, vice president and public finance consultant Jack Magruder, and vice president Gwen Arndt were lured from the venerable Chicago bank in 1990 by upstart Griffin Kubik. Jerry Williams and Eric Anderson started working with the trio at Griffin Kubik and accompanied them back to Harris as assistant vice presidents.

The personnel shuffle continues a long-simmering contest between Harris and Griffin Kubik for a bigger share of the Illinois regional public finance market.

In 1993, Harris was the 15th leading senior bond manager in Illinois, running the books on 46 issues totaling $279 million. Griffin Kubik trailed in the 17th spot, serving as senior manager on 59 deals that totaled $210 million. Year-to-date statistics for 1994 show that Griffin Kubik has edged out 15th-ranked Harris to become the 13th leading senior manager in the state.

Mary Lee Corrigan, chief financial officer at Griffin Kubik, said the firm was conducting talks with the two Harris bankers about joining its seven-person Chicago public finance operation before the five-person team left. But other sources say Harris approached the five-person team about leaving Griffin-Kubik first.

Corrigan said Griffin Kubik officials thought Wingader and Repsholdt "would be good additions to our existing effort." She said the five-member team from Griffin Kubik left "on their own" while firm officials were negotiating to bring the Harris pair on board.

"I don't know why [the five] left us," she said.

Facing an unexpected staffing drain, Corrigan said Griffin Kubik "certainly would look" at bulking up its public finance staff. The firm now counts four public finance professionals in its Chicago office. It also acquired Clayton Brown's Milwaukee public finance office in September when Minneapolis-based Dain Bosworth Inc. announced it would buy Chicago-based Clayton Brown.

Harmon said the team from Griffin Kubik will help him accomplish a key goal.

"It is our intention in hiring these people to reestablish our leadership role in the middle market or regional public finance market in Illinois. That's their area of expertise," the Harris executive said.

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