D.A. Davidson Targets Midwest with Recent I-Banker Hires

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D.A. Davidson has hired two veteran dealmakers in Chicago to get ready for an anticipated pickup in Midwestern bank mergers, an official with the firm says.

"We have been actively expanding our franchise further east," says Rory McKinney, the head of the bank advisory practice at D.A. Davidson, a Portland, Ore., investment bank. "There are obviously a lot more banks out west. There is going to be continued consolidation [though] we don't think it is going to happen overnight."

Stephen Nelson and Eugene Katz joined D.A. Davidson as managing directors from the bank advisory boutique Hovde Financial, where Katz spent 15 years and Nelson spent 18. They left as managing directors. Hovde officials did not return calls for comment.

The hires, announced last week, are the latest in a musical chairs of dealmakers around the country as large and small firms brace for a possible merger wave. D.A. Davidson lost California banker Joseph Gulash to Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW) last year. Hovde and RBC Capital Markets added to their bank advisory teams this summer.

Nelson and Katz are a tight-knit duo who came on board for the opportunity to run point on bank deals in the middle of the country for D.A. Davidson, McKinney says. They have worked together before — McKinney left Hovde for D.A. Davidson in 2007. D.A. Davidson's full-service research and trading operation was another draw, McKinney says.

"What they were looking for is a platform that could augment their advisory experience," McKinney says. "They were also looking to expand and sort of be the guys in the Midwest for us. They're going to be able to build up the footprint for us and so forth."

D.A. Davidson's goal is to become a major player in the Midwest, says McKinney, who is based in Los Angeles and is also a managing director of the firm.

Nelson advised Gold Bank in Kansas City, Mo., in its $700 million sale to Marshall & Ilsley in 2006. Katz advised First Bank in St. Louis in its sale of 24 Chicago-area branches to FirstMerit (FMER) in 2009.

"These guys have done larger deals. They have done creative transactions — whether it is branch divestitures, larger sell-side deals or your typical advisory work," McKinney says.

D.A. Davidson now has about 50 investment bankers, including 10 senior financial institutions bankers. It has 18 offices around the country and may additionally expand in Texas, among other markets, McKinney says. D.A. Davidson is part of Davidson Cos., a financial services company with assets under management of $32 billion.

D.A. Davidson has handled four bank transactions in 2012, according to Bloomberg data. It advised Heritage Financial (HFWA) in its agreement this month to buy Northwest Commercial Bank of Lakewood, Wash.; First PacTrust (BANC) in its purchase in August of Gateway Bancorp, of Cerritos, Calif.; NCAL Bancorp, of Los Angeles, in its agreement in June to sell itself to Grandpoint Capital; and Washington Federal (WAFD) in its deal in April for South Valley Bancorp in Klamath Falls, Ore. The Gateway deal has closed, and the others are pending.

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