FleetBoston Financial Corp. continues to expand its reach on Wall Street as part of a master plan to raise the profile of its brokerage business.
The Boston company has several projects under way that will target the growing - and increasingly competitive - affluent market.
Fleet plans to introduce a cash management account in the fall for individuals with $150,000 or more to invest. It is also changing the way it approaches online trading services for individuals, focusing less on price and more on customized service and financial advice.
The changes are part of an effort to better coordinate the various brokerage, asset management, and market making activities that have been inherited with the purchase of BankBoston Corp., said Bradford H. Warner, vice chairman and head investment services.
Apart from retail distribution, which the company will "build up aggressively," Mr. Warner said Fleet is increasingly focused on expanding its market making capabilities. On Tuesday, Fleet announced that it had an agreement to buy M.J. Meehan & Co. LLC of New York. The purchase would make Fleet the biggest specialist trading operation on the New York Stock Exchange.
In buying Meehan, Fleet would also get another floor specialist, Stuart, Scotto, Cella Co., which Meehan was in the process of acquiring. Terms of the Fleet-Meehan deal were not disclosed, though a person familiar with the negotiations put the price at around $200 million.
Meehan and Stuart Scotto would be combined with Fleet Specialists and named Fleet Meehan Specialists. The operation would have 300 employees, including Terence S. Meehan, chief executive officer of the Meehan firm, who would become chairman of Fleet Meehan.
Christopher C. Quick, who has been chairman of Fleet's floor specialist operation, Fleet Specialists, would become chief executive officer.
Specialist firms have brokers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange who trade assigned stocks and who can tap the firm's capital, if needed, to preserve orderly markets. The business has increasingly benefited from scale, since exchange officials, worried about whether member firms are adequately capitalized, have been ratcheting up capital requirements.
Fleet got into the business two years ago, when it acquired Quick & Reilly Group of New York for about $1.6 billion. That was part of a flurry of acquisitions for Fleet, including deals for Sanwa Business Credit, a leasing and asset-based lending company, Columbia Management Corp., an asset management firm, and the credit card operations of Advanta Corp.
Mr. Warner said Fleet was attracted to Meehan because it wanted to enhance its ability to make markets for clients. "We wanted to be a player," he said.
The combined operation would be bigger, in terms of listings, than Speer Leeds & Kellogg, which is currently the largest, and LaBranche & Co., which is currently second-largest.