Five months after BankAmerica Corp. bought Robertson Stephens, bank executives say cross-selling of services to investment banking and commercial banking clients is picking up speed.
Bank of America representatives last week said that, so far, the bank has referred 147 customers to Robertson Stephens. Of those, about 15 have closed deals-generating close to $20 million of incremental fees-and another two dozen have deals in the pipeline. Robertson Stephens has referred 59 companies to the bank. Of those, six have completed transactions and another 11 have active projects.
The numbers do not quite match the initial results of other banks that acquired investment firms at about the same time, but observers said BankAmerica is on the right track.
"Their focus is to get the right talent on board so that they can expand that franchise," said Thomas Theurkauf, a bank equity analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.
So far, Bankers Trust New York Corp. and NationsBank Corp. have posted more impressive returns on their respective investments in Alex. Brown and Montgomery Securities.
BT Alex. Brown Inc. officials said fully one-third of the 93 deals it closed in the fourth quarter involved cross-sales. At NationsBank Montgomery Securities, executives said cross-sales accounted for $40 million in incremental revenues in the fourth quarter, and another $37 million in the first five weeks of this year alone.
So far the purchase of Robertson Stephens has not boosted BankAmerica's overall market share in managing debt and equity underwriting. Indeed, the bank holding company has fallen from 19th in underwriting in 1995 and 1996 to 20th in 1997-and 24th in the first two months of this year, according to Securities Data Co.
But bank executives and Mr. Theurkauf noted that BankAmerica's focus has not been on generating business immediately, but on building for the future.
Since purchasing the firm in October, BankAmerica has increased Robertson Stephens' staff by about 25%, adding 219 employees. These include 22 investment bankers and 19 research analysts.
"I don't want to declare victory after five months. I don't think that's particularly prudent," said Mike Murray, BankAmerica's president of global wholesale banking. "We are working on developing true cross-selling, so that each side becomes increasingly proficient at talking intelligently to each other."
Mr. Murray said BankAmerica has an aggressive three-year plan to build up the platform at Robertson Stephens. "We said from the beginning that this was a buy-and-build strategy," he added.
The plan calls for new hires in industries where both have a strong background, such as technology, telecommunications, and health care, as well as those in which Robertson Stephens was not as strong as the bank- media, gaming and lodging, and manufacturing. Mr. Murray said BankAmerica is also looking carefully at the possibility of building its expertise in energy.
Targeting these specialties paid off in at least one recent deal. Bradley E. Sparks, chief financial officer at the cellular phone company Omnipoint Corp., said the company now known as BankAmerica Robertson Stephens won a place in its recent $750 million credit facility largely because of senior telecommunications analyst Steve Yanis.
Mr. Yanis was hired between the announcement and closure of the Robertson Stephens acquisition, and has since recruited two other top telecom analysts. "He's building a staff," said Bob Grady, a BankAmerica Robertson Stephens managing director. "Every banker and research analyst was hired to fill a specific niche. This is not a blanket program."
Analysts pointed out that one enhancement brought about by the purchase of Robertson Stephens may appeal to the substantial middle-market customer base at Bank of America: initial public offerings. Executives at White Cap Industries were among the first to avail themselves of this new capability. BankAmerica Robertson Stephens co-managed the company's $72 million initial public offering in October.
Robertson Stephens' investment bankers had had a relationship with the Costa Mesa, Calif., retail distributor since February 1997, when the firm made a private equity investment in White Cap.
"They had a really detailed understanding of our business," said White Cap's chief financial officer, Chris Lane. "And that also proved very helpful when working with Bank of America."
Following the offering, Bank of America led a $100 million credit facility for White Cap, including a $25 million four-year revolving loan and a $75 million four-year acquisition line. It was the first credit facility Bank of America worked on for the company.