CWB Financial Inc., a new municipal financial advisory firm based in Northfield, Ill., seeks to join a small but growing number of woman-owned firms in the municipal bond industry.

The firm, which opened last month, will offer financial advice to municipalities and taxing districts that have set-aside programs for woman-and minority-owned companies, said Kathleen Thomas, president and principal owner of the new firm.

"A lot of taxing bodies have programs that require woman- and minority-owned firms to participate. We hope to fill the woman-owned position," she said.

Ms. Thomas is in charge of the day-to-day operations of CWB Financial, including soliciting clients and structuring bond deals. Initially, the firm is seeking work in Illinois, but hopes to develop a national clientele, said Ms. Thomas, who is also executive vice president and partner of another Northfield financial advisory firm, Flatland, Thomas & Co.

CWB Financial joins a burgeoning number of woman-owned firms in the municipal arena, including P.G. Corbin & Co., Artemis Capital Group Inc., First American Municipals Inc., Smith Mitchell Investment Group Inc., and Perry Investments Inc.

The woman-owned niche has provided opportunities for several of the firms to establish a client base.

"The woman-owned concept is excellent," said Patricia K. Poprik, president of First American Municipals, an investment banking and municipal bond firm in Trevose, Pa. "It has definitely gotten us into markets that we wouldn't have gotten into before. We have found it to be very beneficial."

First American does municipal underwriting sales, as well as financial advisory work.

"We do a considerable amount of woman-owned business," Ms. Poprik said, noting that the firm's woman-owned status has helped it to gain underwriting work for issuers such as California, New York, New York City, Houston, and New York's Dormitory Authority.

"The woman-owned concept will get you into the door; your capabilities will keep you in," Ms. Poprik said, adding that there is plenty of room in the industry for additional woman-owned firms.

Ms. Thomas, 32, began her career in municipal finance as an associate with Flatland, Hinners & Co. in 1983, conducting research and assisting with the preparation of offering statements. She became a vice president in 1986 and a principal and executive vice president in 1990, when the firm's name was changed to Flatland Thomas.

Thomas Flatland, president of the company, is a minority partner in CWB financial. He and Ms. Thomas are the sole employees of the new firm, which has no clients yet.

The first month of operations for CWB Financial has been spent notifying potential clients of the existence of the firm, Ms. Thomas said.

Ms. Thomas was in New York City last week during the Democratic National Convention to drum up business. She attended a reception for Illinois Democrats and met several public finance officials such as Illinois Treasurer Patrick Quinn and Cook County President Richard Phelan.

CWB Financial is the third municipal venture for Ms. Thomas. She also is president and co-founder of Municipal Research Service Inc., a firm that compiles financial data for and assists municipalities with the preparation of financial statements and annual reports. Ms. Thomas expects that CWB Financial will use Municipal Research as an outside contractor to assist with some of the new firm's financial advisory work.

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