Magazine article American Banker

Going the Extra Mile for Finance Companies; 'Getting-to-Know-You' Tact Pays off for William Blair's la Manna

Magazine article American Banker

Going the Extra Mile for Finance Companies; 'Getting-to-Know-You' Tact Pays off for William Blair's la Manna

Article excerpt

His office may be in Chicago, but Joseph F. La Manna most often can be found on the road, in search of value among finance companies.

"Finance companies specialize in higher risk business. I find it necessary to remain in close contact," he said recently from his car phone while heading back to his office at William Blair & Co.

Almost all financial analysts are frequent fliers, but Mr. La Manna seems a particularly indefatigable business voyager. And the hard work seems to have paid off.

This year, Mr. La Manna, 37, was tops in estimating quarterly results for finance companies, according to American Banker's Wall Street Sharpshooter survey of earning forecasting accuracy by analysts covering banking and related industries.

He also was promoted to his assistant director of research last Friday, which will add fresh responsibilities to job as an analyst.

Asked to account for his precision, Mr. La Manna said it probably has to do with his conservative estimating tendencies, as well as his ardent pursuit of all there is to know about the companies he follows.

"I would rather have a company beat my estimate than fall short," he said. "The finance company stocks tend to sell at low price-to-earnings multiples compared to (earnings) growth rates, so you don't need to be aggressive on the estimates."

Mr. La Manna's universe of coverage as an analyst spans an unusually wide spectrum. It ranges from subprime auto finance companies, the best known of which is Mercury Finance, to traditional bank holding companies, including Chicago's venerable Northern Trust Co. …

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