Forty Years of Municipal Bonds – A Letter to Our Clients, Colleagues, and Friends


I hope Summer 2024 is off to a good start.  I wish you and your family a Happy 4th of July – the day the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.

Our founders were skeptical of concentrated power. They knew concentrated power set against its citizens could be a crushing force. So they devised a system with checks and balances, eventually writing a Constitution enumerating our rights. Our system is imperfect, but its foundation is fundamentally good and all of us play a role ensuring it continues to evolve into something better for the common well-being.

All of us at Bernardi Securities and Bernardi Asset Management have much to be thankful for. We are thankful for the many individuals, organizations, and communities that rely on our team to help them along. We are appreciative of the continued confidence of so many. On behalf of the entire Bernardi team, I thank you for allowing us to help you.


This is a milestone year for our firm.

On October 1, 2024 we celebrate our 40th year in business. 

Entrepreneurial values, paired with a primary focus of serving our clients well, were the essence of our beginning. We were ambitious entrepreneurs looking to build a successful organization. We wanted to help people and organizations plan and improve their futures by investing in the bond market. And we wanted to help communities raise capital for affordable and needed infrastructure projects. 

These elements remain at the core of our corporate ethos.

We opened our doors in November 1984. There were 3 or 4 of us the first few months. Our office was located across from Chicago City Hall where Mayor Harold Washington presided.

Our capital base was $275,000.00 supplemented by an American National Bank & Trust Company credit line. We financed our inventory from these two sources.

Tumultuous and innovative forces dominated 1984:

  • the 10 year U.S. Treasury Bond yielded 11.55% at year-end
  • Apple’s Macintosh went on sale for $2,500.00
  • Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Company, the nation’s seventh largest bank by deposits, failed
  • NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery departed on its maiden voyage
  • U.S. Treasury public debt totaled $1.6 trillion, the year’s budget deficit was $175 billion

An uncertain feeling pervaded and the risks of starting a business, a municipal bond firm no less, were substantial.

Fortunately, we had a resolute and intrepid leader in firm founder, Ed Bernardi. It was his idea to:

  • form a specialty firm excelling in the municipal bond marketplace
  • focus on building trust with investors and issuers across the country while serving their needs
  • assemble a young team comprised of hardworking, energetic individuals to accomplish our mission

Ed was our leader and mentor for many years. His leadership was masterful.  He set the tone establishing high standards for us to follow. Relying on his deep knowledge of the bond business, street smarts, and an innate common sensibility, he taught us the innumerable lessons we needed to learn. 

In the process, the firm prospered and the young team he assembled matured. 

From the outset we were blessed with numerous, loyal, and faithfully supportive clients who relied on our expertise. This gave us a huge advantage.

To this day this dynamic exists. There are many factors creating this force, but I believe the specialized nature of our firm model helps foster these deep and loyal client relationships.

Thank you. The Bernardi team is forever grateful for this loyalty and confidence you place in us.



Nearly 40 years later we remain:

  • doggedly committed to serving bond investors and communities across the nation
  • an independent, private firm excelling in the niche business of municipal bonds
  • a vertically integrated organization that does not outsource its core competencies

At Bernardi we note: “Municipal bonds build America’s infrastructure”. 

We understand the role we play in this endeavor and how it has grown over the decades. For nearly forty years we have not strayed from serving municipal bond investors and issuers across the country. Our commitment has been consistent and unwavering as we’ve played a small part helping to build and improve America’s infrastructure.

As we begin our fourth decade our goal is to continue on this path with laser-like focus.


Today our service platform consists of:

  • bond portfolio management
  • new bond issue underwriting
  • credit surveillance
  • public finance services
  • secondary market trading

Daily activities at the firm can be daunting, exciting, and humbling. Individuals and organizations across the country count on us to help them navigate a complicated and often volatile marketplace. The responsibilities we have to our clients are significant. We understand this and do our best to perform at the highest level at all times.

Our firm is blessed with talented employees. For nearly 40 years dozens of honest, diligent, smart, hardworking employees have helped our organization flourish. 

I read recently that on average an employee remains at a company for about 4 years. While the average tenure of my Bernardi colleagues is 15 years.  At a recent firmwide gathering I recognized employees who’ve served for 17 years or longer – I recognized 12 individuals, about 40% of the team.

Our team works collaboratively.  Everyone contributes and is expected to play a role improving the platform of services we offer. This dynamic helps effect needed changes and improves the client experience. We are a diverse group and the ability to work together is a real strength, one of the great successes of our firm. 



The 2024 Summer Olympic torch passing relay began on April 16th and ends July 26th in Olympia, Greece.  The lighted torch will then sail to France and begin its French leg ending during the Opening Ceremony. It’s a long road to Paris.

A torch passing has been occurring at our firm for nearly a decade. I extend a heartfelt thank you to the many individuals inside and outside the organization who have assisted in this process. The process is thoughtful, gradual, segmented and dynamic. It occurs daily and involves multiple firm leaders including several individuals who are the next generation of firm leadership. It’s a long and winding road with twists and turns, of course. But this process is progressing nicely and will continue in the coming years.

As part of this torch passing, two notable events recently occurred.

  • Senior Principal and shareholder, Lou Lamberti, retired at the end of 2023.  He continues to serve on the Board of Directors.  Lou began his career at Bernardi on December 6, 1984. For thirty-nine years he served our clients leading the Trading and Underwriting department. Lou was one of our rocks – reliable, smart, steady, cool, classy, and honest. Over the years I have told this to many: if you want to succeed in this business with style and gravitas, look no further than Lou Lamberti.
  • Senior Principal, shareholder, and Corporate Secretary, Michelle Landis, retired this past spring.  She continues to serve on the Board of Directors.  Michelle began her career at Bernardi on August 15, 1995.  She began in sales.  Over the years Michelle pivoted into new roles at my request taking on a variety of important management responsibilities requiring her precise and steady hand. Her responsibilities removed her from the limelight most often. But the work she accomplished helped ensure a positive experience for our clients and greatly contributed to the firm’s ongoing prosperity.

Both Lou and Michelle faithfully served our mission for decades. Together, we navigated through some rough seas including:

  • Black Monday – October 19, 1987
  • Great Bond Massacre – 1994
  • Federal Reserve bailout of Long-Term Capital Management – September 1998
  • Dot-com bubble burst – March 10, 2000
  • 2008-2009 Financial Crisis
  • COVID- 19 pandemic Market Crash – February/March 2020
  • Federal Reserve Quantitative Tightening – 2022

We successfully dealt with a multitude of challenges and exciting endeavors and had a lot of fun along the way.  It was a remarkable journey with these two individuals.  And these words do not come close to conveying the depths of their contributions to our clients or my sense of gratitude for their efforts over the years.



I find myself looking to the years ahead as I imagine my father viewed the path forward in 1984. I remain involved in firm and client affairs, but the focus continues to shift appropriately as a team of younger leaders increasingly make key decisions.

These are exciting times for us – it’s energizing and exciting to experience this dynamism. We have a young and talented team. I sleep very well at night knowing the talent pool and dedication at this firm is robust. It’s this pool of talent that helps ensure our clients’ interests grow – which means the firm will expand, innovate and prosper in the coming years.

In many respects I liken the responsibility of running our organization to a jockey leading a Thoroughbred down the backstretch of a Triple Crown race:

  • The stakes are high with many counting on you
  • Time moves rapidly with many factors beyond your control
  • You make dozens of decisions in rapid fire fashion without knowing the consequences until later
  • The pressure is often intense

One key to our success at Bernardi – like the steed the jockey rides – we keep the blinders in place.  Of course, we glance left and right occasionally to size up the competition and the state of the world around us making needed adjustments.  But we quickly return our gaze straight ahead focused on the finish line where our mission goal awaits us. We move forward methodically, step by step, adhering to firm protocols and best practice methodologies. We rely on teamwork. We trust the training and work we’ve put in because those forces have successfully delivered us to this point.

We stay in our in our lane.

And I believe our clients recognize this as a strength, value it and appreciate the ways we help them.


The municipal bond market in this country works well. And all of us, in communities across the country, benefit from its dynamic nature. Decisions are made locally by citizens closest to projects – public projects their constituents need, want and presumably can afford.  The central government is greatly removed from the decision making process.  And that fact has served all of our communities well. 

Municipal bonds finance the great majority of America’s public infrastructure: our schools, roads and highways, libraries, town halls, water towers, power plants, hospitals, airports, county courthouses, water and sanitation plants, flood control projects, electric grids, park district facilities and more. 

The issuance of municipal bonds dates back to the early 1880s and its origin coincides with the beginning of our nation’s rapid economic development. The Revenue Act of 1913 first codified exemption of interest on municipal bonds from federal income taxation.  This was a direct result of our federalist system structure and the separation of powers it engenders, including the ability of state governments to raise capital independent of the federal government. 

A multitude of recent studies confirm our nation’s public infrastructure needs upgrading. If we want to improve the infrastructure in this country in the coming decades, we will need a robust municipal bond market to finance much of it.

For nearly 40 years, our firm has played a part in this important headline of America’s story. We plan on continuing to contribute in the years ahead.

Thank you for your continued confidence in our team.  Happy 4th!


Ronald P. Bernardi
President and CEO
Bernardi Securities, Inc.