Just eight years ago, BondLink Co-Founder and CEO Colin MacNaught left his post as assistant deputy treasurer for debt management in the Massachusetts’ treasurer’s office to build a firm that would bring greater transparency to the municipal bond markets and aid issuers in reaching more investors to attain better pricing.
Today, the firm he started a decade ago with Carl Query, a tech start-up entrepreneur, has grown to 35 employees and serves issuers in 45 states.
“Our clients issue about 15% of all the bonds in the market,” MacNaught said.
BondLink has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. It started out targeting state and local government issuers, and has branched out into all things muni. Its latest gain is a Washington state issuer of single-family housing bonds.
The issuers it serves range from the state of California, the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority and the state of Washington to the city of Durham, North Carolina, and the city of Alameda, California.
MacNaught said the firm adds more value to both issuers and investors than when he started.
“The common denominator is we work with issuers, who want to communicate with and engage with investors and be transparent,” MacNaught said. “That is not the case with everyone. A lot of issuers [or the person in charge of debt management] wear 10 hats, and they don’t have a lot of time, and they aren’t in the market all the time.”
BondLink makes it easier for issuers to provide disclosure — beyond what EMMA requires — interim financial reports that give investors a broader picture of the issuer’s fiscal health, says MacNaught.
Doing so has been more important for issuers over the past few years, given the choppiness in the market, resulting from inflation, interest rate increases and the heavy outflows that occurred last year.
“Accessing the capital markets is much more challenging than it was two years ago,” MacNaught said. “And accessing, low-cost capital, is even more challenging.”
His first client was the District of Columbia in November 2016. His most recent is the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, WSHFCbonds.bondlink.com, an issuer of single-family housing bonds.
That website was launched on Aug. 29 as the issuer prepared for an upcoming bond issuance. WSHFC issues bonds to support a program that provides affordable homes loans for low- and moderate-income families across the state.
“We take pride in our mission-driven work to make housing more accessible to our citizens,” said Fenice Taylor, its senior finance director. “This level of transparency, and ease of communicating with investors, that we’re now able to achieve with BondLink will undoubtedly help us direct capital toward our home-loan programs even more efficiently.”
The website will allow WSHFC to centralize investor access to financial information and documentation relating to its single-family bond financing programs, according to the BondLink release.
BondLink collaborates with other housing agencies across the country, including Illinois Housing Development Authority, D.C. Housing Finance Agency, and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, in addition to surrounding municipalities like King County, Washington, and the state of Oregon, MacNaught said.
WSHFC has a triple-A rating from Moody’s Investors Service and issues quite a bit of debt in Washington, MacNaught said. “They are selling social bonds. A lot of issuers are trying to sell bonds to retail investors, which has been strong over the course of 2023,” he said.
RBC Capital Markets will price $30 million in tax-exempt (non-AMT) bonds on Sept. 13 for WSHFC.
MacNaught worked on close to $25 billion in bonds as assistant treasurer for debt management in the Massachusetts Treasurer’s Office a position he held from 2008, until he left in 2015 to co-found BondLink.
He won the SIFMA municipal division honor roll award for his contributions to the municipal bond market in 2010. A financing he worked on while Massachusetts assistant state treasurer won The Bond Buyer Deal of the Year in 2014 for its complexity and innovation. Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Office was given the award for the creation of a dedicated program to sell bonds to individual investors using an open-architecture electronic trading platform called MassDirect Notes.
Massachusetts was also recognized with The Bond Buyer’s Deal of the Year award in 2011 for developing innovative debt financing structures for the commonwealth’s $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Repair Program borrowings, designed to accelerate the repair of hundreds of bridges across the commonwealth.
The Massachusetts investor website he created was also given the 2013 Industry Contribution award by the National Federal of Municipal Analysts.
He earned his master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Prior to joining the state treasurer’s office in January 2008, MacNaught worked as an associate director for Standard & Poor’s, focused on east coast state credits and interest rate swaps.