Legg Mason Inc. would be interested in buying a bank if the Glass-Steagall Act, the law separating commercial banks and securities firms, is gutted by the next Congress, the company's president said.
If the 63-year-old law dies, "we would be very interested in acquiring a bank," said James Brinkley in an interview at the Securities Industry Association annual gathering here.
Interest income from Legg Mason's lending services, such as loaning money to customers who want to buy investments on margin, is a growing source of its revenue, said Mr. Brinkley.
Buying a commercial bank would also let Baltimore-based Legg Mason offer its corporate clients a full menu of financial services.
Meanwhile, Legg Mason will boost its nearly 1,000-strong brokerage force by 7% to 9% next year.
Legg Mason, which bought three money management firms in the past two years, would like to add a fourth, Mr. Brinkley said, though competition for mutual fund companies means "price is an issue."
The Baltimore firm's executives have discussed getting into technology, according to Mr. Brinkley, an area many investment banks are focusing on as industries like computer networking, software, and biotechnology burgeon.
"We would need a large critical mass of analysts to do it," he said, noting that the firm might consider buying a group from a rival.
As more and more people use the Internet, offering trading via the World Wide Web is just a matter of time for Legg Mason, Mr. Brinkley said.
"It's a question of when, not if" the firm offers its customers the ability to enter trades through the Internet, he said, suggesting the service would probably be offered within two years.