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BTIG Hires Castro to Build Out Asset-Backed Securities Group

BTIG LLC, the broker-dealer that’s grown from five employees to more than 400 since 2002, hired Dan Castro, the former top-ranked head of asset-backed research at Merrill Lynch & Co. to be a strategist as the New York-based firm expands its fixed-income business.

Castro, who was at Merrill Lynch for 14 years, is forming a strategy and analytics group to focus on mortgage- and other asset-backed securities, John Purcell, global co-head of fixed-income, said in an interview. Castro, 51, was chief risk officer at New York-based investment firm Huxley Capital Management prior to joining BTIG.

BTIG, founded by Steven Starker and Scott Kovalik in 2002 to specialize in equity trading and brokerage, has more than doubled its headcount since May 2008, when Goldman Sachs Group Inc. invested in the firm. Purcell joined from Citigroup Inc. along with Jon Bass from UBS AG last year to start a fixed-income division seeking to capitalize as the world’s largest banks cut staff amid losses from the credit crisis and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos. failed.

“Clients have asked for an unconflicted opinion on strategy and analytics in structured finance,” Purcell said. “That need will continue to exist.”

Castro was ranked a top analyst in Institutional Investor magazine’s annual poll for 13 consecutive years.

His move marks a return to the sell-side after a five-year stint in investment management. Castro was a portfolio manager and chief credit officer at GSC Group, formerly GSC Partners, in New York from 2005 to 2008 before going to Huxley.

BTIG plans to double its 12-member staff dedicated to selling and trading asset-backed securities and related debt.

Sales of asset-backed securities tied to consumer and business loans got a boost when the Federal Reserve opened its Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility last year to revive issuance. TALF spurred $184 billion in sales for 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, before expiring in March. There has been $44 billion issued in 2010, the data show.

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