Fleet Financial Group has lured the head of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.'s Boston-based mergers and acquisitions business to lead its nascent M&A unit.

Kenneth A. Csaplar, 40, brings the number of professionals in Fleet's M&A practice to three. The group, which plans to add another two executives soon, is targeting middle-market companies for assistance on both the sell and buy sides, restructurings, and liquidity management. Mr. Csaplar starts work April 14.

Boston-based Fleet has been developing its corporate finance business for the last year. M&A advisory work represents one of the last pieces in the bank's plan to build a full-service wholesale financial franchise.

"This is the next step in trying to evolve from a lending relationship toward advising our customers on capital markets," said Tim Conway, a managing director and former Citicorp executive who heads the corporate finance effort.

The total number of Fleet bankers specializing in loan syndications, advisory, and private placements is now about 50, up from 15 at the same time last year, said Mr. Conway.

Within the year, Fleet executives said new ventures such as mergers and acquisitions will enable the bank to double its corporate finance revenues.

"Look at the demographics of the Fleet loan portfolio," said Mr. Csaplar. "A lot of those companies can use investment banking help, particularly in the middle market, and the large bulge bracket firms don't focus in on them as much as they should."

Indeed, Mr. Conway said that Fleet does not expect to compete with investment banks on sell-side mandates.

A 13-year veteran of Brown Brothers, Mr. Csaplar spent the last decade as the head of the investment bank's advisory practice, where he recently worked on Huntsman Corp.'s purchase of Deerfield Plastics.

Bringing someone with Mr. Csaplar's experience on board "says something about Fleet's commitment to the business," said Sally Pope Davis, a bank analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co.

"They have such a tremendous market share within their franchise that it makes sense for them to focus on" mergers and acquisitions, she said. "It's similar to what First Union is doing."

Mr. Csaplar's job presents some challenges, particularly in integrating the advisory role into the overall financing package.

"It can be difficult in the beginning to focus on and service all the opportunities that there are in the marketplace," said Mr. Conway. "The challenge is not deal flow. When you are starting out, the challenge is providing resources at every opportunity that's available."

Mr. Conway said that Fleet is considering an entry into other businesses, most notably public high-yield bond underwriting.

"We evaluate that on a regular basis," said Mr. Conway. "When the time is right, we'll be in that business as well."

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