When U.S. Bancorp closed its $730 million acquisition of Piper Jaffray Cos. and its broker-dealer last week, the banking company significantly bolstered its position in investment products.
With the addition of $13 billion of assets managed by Piper, U.S. Bancorp now boasts $75 billion under management, including $30 billion in mutual funds. The companies' investment advisory arms have been combined under the banner of First American Asset Management, a unit of the Minneapolis banking company's lead subsidiary, U.S. Bank N.A.
The combined product lines and sales forces also create the nation's 11th-largest brokerage, U.S. Bancorp said. It will be called Piper Jaffray Inc. until later this year, when it is to be renamed U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Inc.
Piper's "experience, depth, and manpower is a vital addition to U.S. Bancorp," said Burton J. Greenwald, a consultant in Philadelphia. "It gives them the ability to provide product competitively."
The bank's asset management arm has been strong in money market and equity offerings but has lacked depth in fixed-income investments. Among the 32 funds that Piper-also of Minneapolis-brought to the lineup were fixed-income funds with $6.1 billion of assets.
"We added some terrific products in the fixed-income area," said John Murphy, chief investment officer at U.S. Bank. He said the bank welcomed those and a mid-cap growth product it had lacked.
The marriage of the two product lines-42 funds in all-will be completed within four months, Mr. Murphy said. The fund family will be the fifth- largest managed by a bank, he said.
Mr. Murphy added that Piper Jaffray brokers are enthusiastic about selling the bank's 401(k) plans. Though Piper offered those products, they were "nowhere near as sophisticated," he said.
Mr. Greenwald said now that the deal is done, the big challenge for U.S. Bancorp is to foster the kind of entrepreneurial, aggressive sales culture that made Piper Jaffray a quality outfit.
He said Piper brokers are not as beholden to proprietary products as many traditional bank brokers are. "The long-term challenge is whether the Piper culture can continue to thrive," he said.
But that may possible, Mr. Greenwald said. Banks now want to nurture the successful characteristics that built great brokerages, and U.S. Bancorp management claims it wants to successfully integrate the two cultures.
"The cultures are coming together wonderfully," Mr. Murphy said. None of the portfolio managers are leaving, and though some back-office employees have taken posts elsewhere, this reflects competition, not dissatisfaction, he said.
There are 40 portfolio managers and 35 analysts in First American Asset Management. On the brokerage side, Piper Jaffray adds 1,200 brokers to the bank's ranks, which exceed 250.
U.S. Bancorp executives were unavailable to discuss the cultural issues facing the brokerage units.
In Piper Jaffray, U.S. Bancorp gets a firm of high quality, Mr. Greenwald said. Its reputation was only enhanced by the direct way in which it confronted difficulties it had in 1994 after losses in derivative holdings, he said. "They stood up and swallowed hard and tried to make their customers whole," he said.
If the cultural differences are overcome, Mr. Greenwald expects U.S. Bancorp to be a major player. "With leadership on both sides it could be a seamless marriage in the next one or two years."