Just last year banker Roberto DeGuardiola billed himself as a lone wolf in the world of mutual fund mergers. Last week, however, he decided to help lead the pack at investment banking boutique Putnam, Lovell & Thornton Inc.

But Mr. DeGuardiola said he is not doing an "about face" by joining the San Francisco-based firm. He described it is a natural progression for him and good friend Donald Putnam.

"He and I are going to be co-heads of the firm and simply take one and one and make it three," said Mr. DeGuardiola.

He and Putnam Lovell together have been responsible for more than 50% of the mergers and acquisitions done in the mutual fund business during the last five years, according to Mr. DeGuardiola.

"Many times we were on the opposite side of the table," he remarked. Indeed, both sides had to wait until they were not competing to negotiate and finally began talking in late summer, said Mr. DeGuardiola.

Speaking in a telephone interview last week, Donald Putnam, chief executive officer of Putnam Lowell, said it was somewhat difficult to woo his new partner. However, the fact that Putnam Lovell has the capacity to deal with the complexity of an increasingly global business may have helped, Mr. Putnam said.

Putnam Lovell has four offices, including ones in Los Angeles, New York, and London. Mr. Guardiola will be based in New York, he said.

Mr. DeGuardiola will be a managing director at Putnam Lovell and noted that he will own a "substantial portion" of the firm.

However, said Mr. Putnam, the equity that Mr. DeGuardiola will own "is more a testament to his importance to our strategy than a matter of raising capital for our firm."

At Putnam Lovell, Mr. DeGuardiola will continue to focus on brokering deals in the asset management area but will also explore other areas. "We're looking at insurance, we're looking at broker-dealers," said Mr. DeGuardiola.

But, he noted: "The bulk of our efforts are always going to be in asset management. We think there's a lot going on in that industry."

He declined to comment on specific deals, but said he and Putnam Lovell are busy. "The industry is full of ferment," he said. And banks are still actively looking at mutual fund companies, he added.

What's more, said Mr. Putnam: The firm is currently working with a "superregional-type" broker-dealer firm that may be looking to merge with a banking company. The bank has yet to be chosen, he said, declining to be more specific.

Mr. DeGuardiola has a number of notable deals to his credit and was responsible for the recent merger of the British group Invesco PLC and Aim Management Inc.

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