Finance Chief for Austin School System Joins SWS
20-year finance veteran who has held top positions in some of the nation’s largest school districts to join No. 1 MWBE investment banking firm
The Chief Financial Officer and Chief of Business Operations for the Austin Independent School District (AISD) will join Siebert Williams Shank (SWS), the nation’s No. 1 minority- and woman-owned investment bank, as Managing Director in SWS’s Infrastructure and Public Finance Department in Texas.
Nicole Conley, as AISD’s top finance official, managed a $3 billion budget and capital program for the 80,000-student, 129-school community. She will help to oversee infrastructure financing in Texas, particularly the urgent need of relieving school overcrowding.
Ms. Conley oversaw the business and operations divisions at AISD, managed 1,600 employees, and during her tenure the district passed a $1.1 billion bond package, the largest in the history of Central Texas, without raising the tax rate, which will help modernize its school facilities. The district also achieved some of the highest financial ratings in the state, achieving Triple A status and a Superior rating by the State of Texas.
She has held senior leadership positions at some of the largest and most significant school systems in the nation, including the New York City Department of Education – America’s largest – Atlanta Public Schools, and the District of Columbia Public Schools.
“We are thrilled to attract someone with Nicole’s impressive track record, unique experience and deep knowledge of the K-12 market in Texas and nationally,” said SWS CEO and co-founder, Suzanne Shank. “Our firm continues to grow and thrive throughout the nation, but particularly in Texas, where we have been increasing our footprint and managing some of the largest deals in the state. Nicole’s addition will be highly additive to our ability to assist clients in meeting their financing objectives.”
“Texas is a market that has continued to grow for us and the need for further investment in critical infrastructure is as strong as ever,” said Gary Hall, SWS Partner and National Head of Infrastructure and Public Finance. “One of the key issues in Texas is school overcrowding and Nicole’s deep knowledge and experience in education systems across the country will provide enormous value in driving solutions for students, faculty and taxpayers all over the state.”
“Our firm has enjoyed enormous success this year in Texas, even as the pandemic has forced changes,” said SWS Managing Director and Head of Texas, Keith Richard. “Despite these challenges, we have been able to deliver unprecedented financial results to our clients and drive the kind of key investments in infrastructure that the people of this state need. With Nicole on board, our footprint in this market will grow, particularly when it comes to the crucial issue of school renovation and construction, which districts across the state urgently need.”
“It is an honor and a fantastic opportunity to join such a successful, dynamic and respected firm, which I have seen first-hand achieve such remarkable deals in the infrastructure and municipal finance space,” said Ms. Conley. “Ms. Shank is a trailblazer in the municipal bond business and I know her insights and experience as an accomplished professional provide me the opportunity to grow under her mentorship and the mentorship of the SWS team.”
Prior to AISD, Ms. Conley served as Deputy Chief Financial Officer for the Atlanta Public Schools, where she led the Finance and Purchasing departments, oversaw all investment and borrowing decisions and accounting functions, as well as other responsibilities.
Earlier in her career, she was the Director of Strategic Sourcing for the New York City Department of Education, the nation’s largest school system, with 1.1 million students. She helped coordinate that system’s annual $11 billion budget request, directed a successful procurement strategy that resulted in $65 million in annual savings and served as lead agency negotiator on all project directives with departmental executives and the Mayor’s office.
She was the Budget Director for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia and the Director of Resource Allocation and Management for the District of Columbia Public Schools, where she was responsible for the development, execution and management of the district’s $2 billion Operating and Capital budget.
In 2018, Ms. Conley was appointed by the Texas Speaker of the House to serve on the Texas Commission on Public School Finance, whose work culminated in an $11.6 billion investment in public education and property tax relief.
She was named Non-profit CFO of the Year by the Austin Business Journal in 2011; received the Council of Great City School’s Bill Wise CFO Award for Innovation and Excellence; the Texas Association of Business Officials Champion for Education Award; and Ambassador of the Year from Friends of Texas Public Schools, all in 2020.
She earned a Master of Science degree in Urban Affairs from the Robert J. Milano School of Finance Policy, Management, and Environment at the New School in New York City and a Certificate of Public Finance from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She earned a Bachelor of Art degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.