The municipal bond market historically has been retail-oriented, as high-net-worth individuals, particularly those in the highest tax bracket, benefit from the interest income tax-exemption. However, institutional investors, such as banks and insurance companies, have been some of the biggest buyers of municipals over the past several years and now represent approximately 30% of the market. Municipal bonds are issued as tax-exempt and taxable and, while both offer different attributes, each offers a role in institutional portfolios.
An important distinction between tax-exempt and taxable municipals is the traditional buyer base. Tax-exempt municipals traditionally are retail-led while taxable municipals offer attributes compelling to institutional buyers. In our view, recent structural changes have made taxable municipals an attractive strategic option for institutional investors while potentially offering a tactical opportunity in tax-exempt municipals.