ABN Amro Chicago Corp., formed by the January acquisition of the brokerage ChiCorp Inc. by ABN Amro Bank of the Netherlands, is in the midst of an ambitious effort to beef up its global equity research network.

The group has hired a number of senior analysts and plans to hire six more a year for the next four years, which would put the head count at 45.

ABN Amro Chicago can be expected to bring in top equity researchers, according to a source familiar with the bank, because building its U.S. presence is an important item on its parent's agenda. The bank currently has $70 billion in assets in North America.

Most recently, the group hired Eugene Nowak, former director of the energy group at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, as a senior vice president and senior analyst to cover domestic and international oil companies.

James D. McDonald, director of research at ABN Amro Chicago, says the group will continue to concentrate on North America, but will also begin to focus on global industries, including financial services, telecommunications, energy, and metals and mining.

"We've tailored our strategy toward fitting in with the ABN Amro global opportunity. We're hiring people in global industries that will take advantage of ABN Amro's worldwide strengths and contacts," Mr. McDonald said.

Mr. McDonald said he believes equity research departments to be a central part of a bank's investment banking operations.

"The reason is that the marketplace right now very highly values equity research as a function that helps both corporate finance and dealings with the institutional investment community," he said, adding that the analysts' role had increased over the past 10 years.

Their role at ABN Amro Chicago, he said, now also includes focusing on where investment opportunities are, and, on the corporate finance side, finding which companies will need to raise capital and consolidation opportunities.

This type of research capability will come in handy as the group develops its capital markets capabilities, which was made possible through the acquisition of ChiCorp.

While the group is based in Chicago, its capital markets section will be located in New York.

Henry H. Erbe 3d is the senior managing director and head of equity capital markets. Mr. Erbe was most recently a senior vice president at Lehman Brothers' global equity capital markets group.

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