Jeffrey Rizzo of Moody's Investors Service was elected the No. 1 Regional Municipal Bond Analyst in 1991.

Rizzo's victory wasn't a cakewalk, however, as Ruth Carson of Fitch Investors Service, Nicole Anderes of Roosevelt & Cross, and Paul Flynn of the Vanguard Group, each mustered impressive tallies.

Rizzo's victory probably won't surprise anyone at Moody's, which takes a regional approach to analyzing the municipal bonds it rates. Afterall, he's the agency's top regional analyst.

"In my 15 years at Moody's, I started at a position where I updated existing ratings and subsequently worked in every region," Rizzo said.

Moody's is organized into eight regions across the country, which correspond to the U.S. government's national census regions. Each region is staffed by a manager and anywhere from a half-dozen, to a dozen and a half analysts, Rizzo said.

Rizzo believes the regional approach to analyzing municipal bonds provides value to investors, issues and analysts.

"Analysts benefit by developing a complete knowledge of a state or issuer's debt, tax base, etc.," Rizzo said. "Analysts can better see the relationships between different types of debt an issuer has outstanding. Also, it promotes greater professionalism because the analysts become more well-rounded and seasoned."

Analysts are exposed to a variety of financial instruments and issuers, he said, and they must keep abreast of political and economic developments in their regions.

Issuers benefit from a regional appraoch because they have one rating team or analyst for all of their debt issues.

Moody's analysts, Rizzo said, can assure issuers that they understand the local tax bases, tax codes, and regional economic nuances.

Financial advisors and bond counsel, which also tend to be organized regionally, benefit by having to deal with a single rating team.

With a regional focus, investors are assured that any developments in local markets will be reflected in credit ratings.

Moreover, questions about the credit quality of any single issuer can be answered by the regionally-based analyst.

Rizzo stressed that Moody's approach to any rating is done on a case-by-case basis. But Moody's does see several "macrotrends" in municipal credits, such as infrastructure, public safety issues, environmental concerns, and shifting intergovernmental relationships.

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