KeyCorp wants to bolster its wealth-management and brokerage business in the Pacific Northwest and would consider acquisitions there, a senior bank official said.
Having just bought McDonald & Co., a brokerage based in its own hometown of Cleveland, KeyCorp is eager to bring private banking to other parts of its market.
"We have a very strong interest in expanding our high-net-worth business out West," said R.B. "Yank" Heisler, president of KeyCorp's brokerage, capital markets, and asset management division. "If there is an acquisition that fits what we are trying to do on a relationship brokerage basis, then we would be interested."
A logical candidate, analysts say, is Ragen MacKenzie Group Inc. of Seattle, a retail securities brokerage with 11 offices and 120 brokers in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.
"The two together would look really good on paper," said James R. Bradshaw, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Ore. "KeyCorp's strategy is to continue growing its nonbanking businesses, and Ragen is the jewel of the Pacific Northwest."
Mr. Heisler declined to say whether KeyCorp has had discussions with Ragen or any other potential targets, but he acknowledged that Ragen would be a good fit. "Many banking companies and many brokers would love to have discussions with Ragen MacKenzie," Mr. Heisler said.
An analyst who did not want to be quoted by name said several financial institutions, including KeyCorp, have examined Ragen's books since the firm went public in June.
This analyst said that at an investment conference last month in Boston, Mr. Heisler announced that KeyCorp had "been in touch" with a potential acquisition target in the Pacific Northwest.
"Ragen is simply the best franchise available" in that part of the country, the analyst said.
Ragen chief executive officer Lesa Sroufe and chief financial officer V. Lawrence Bensussen did not return calls for comment.
Some sources expressed doubt that Ragen would put itself up for sale because it went public only a few months ago. The firm's initial public offering was meant to raise capital for expansion, said Robert Rogowski, principal of Columbia Financial Advisors, a Seattle merger advisory company. Columbia was not involved in Ragen Mackenzie's IPO.
"Until they deploy the capital they have raised, it's my opinion that they wouldn't be getting full value if they sell," Mr. Rogowski said.
But others pointed out that Ragen executives instituted lucrative options packages at the time of the IPO that would kick in should the brokerage be sold.
Buying Ragen would be a strong move for the $77.7 billion-asset KeyCorp, which has a significant and successful retail banking presence in the Pacific Northwest.
About 13%, or $5.3 billion, of KeyCorp's deposits are in Washington, placing it fourth in market share behind BankAmerica Corp., Washington Mutual Inc. and U.S. Bancorp., in that order. KeyCorp is fifth in deposit share in Oregon, with nearly $2 billion of deposits.
Buying Ragen would allow KeyCorp to cross-sell top-line securities products through its 138 Washington and 64 Oregon branches, Mr. Bradshaw said.
Raven would also dovetail with the Oct. 26 purchase of McDonald, which brought 422 stockbrokers to KeyCorp., raising its companywide total to 712. The newly named McDonald Investments, the company's retail brokerage, investment banking, and capital markets arm, has a major Western presence only in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Mr. Heisler said KeyCorp also hopes to expand its wealth- management and brokerage businesses in the Northeast. Essex Capital Markets Inc., a Rochester, N.Y., investment firm acquired by McDonald before the KeyCorp deal closed, could provide a platform for such growth, he said.
"I would hope we have a chance to build off of Essex and get more of a presence in the Northeast," Mr. Heisler said.