To crack the U.S. ABS market, French conglomerate Group Caisse des Depots' newly established monoline arm CDC IXIS Financial Guaranty (CIFG) has hired Jeremy Reifsnyder from MBIA to lead the U.S. structured finance initiative.

A group head at a top-five ABS investment bank commented that, in the monoline asset-backed community, Reifsnyder is "as good as it gets." The move is expected to establish the well-capitalized CIFG as a triple-A to be reckoned with, a source familiar with the situation added.

Reifsnyder, who will report to global structured finance head Jacques Rolfo, had been at MBIA since the monoline acquired Capital Markets Assurance Corp. (CapMAC) in 1998. Reifsnyder had moved over to CapMAC a year earlier, after resigning as head of ABS and managing director at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell in 1996.

CIFG expects to receive its license from the New York State Insurance Department within the next several weeks, and will be rated by all three agencies shortly thereafter, an official in CIFG's New York office said. The group will theoretically begin underwriting as soon as its ratings are intact. It is anticipated that Reifsnyder will build his team promptly.

"We are in the midst of assembling our U.S. structured finance team," the official added. "Obviously when we have the head of the group in place, we will be moving forward."

Reifsnyder starts today, and resigned from MBIA last Tuesday, sources said.

Also currently in the New York office, and part of the structured finance team, are Abner Figueroa and Jim Aronoff, who joined last fall. CIFG is be capitalized with at least $500 million in cash and committed capital. The company has operations in Europe as well as the U.S. Parent company CDC IXIS is rated triple-A.

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