Fresh from a reorganization of its debt capital markets business, U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray says it has no plan to build the kind of one-stop, fixed-income shop seen in large commercial banks.
Instead, the Minneapolis-based securities and investment banking unit - formed when U.S. Bancorp bought regional brokerage Piper Jaffray Companies in May 1998 - will home in on two debt capital markets areas in which it already has strengths: municipal bond underwriting and taxable bond sales.
"We have no interest in providing the type of fixed-income platform that a bank like Chase has," said Tom Stanberry, Piper Jaffray's director of fixed-income capital markets.
Piper Jaffray was ranked as the 10th biggest underwriter of municipal long bonds in 1999 by volume, lead-managing 538 issues worth $5.2 billion.
Now the brokerage is trying to increase sales and secondary trading of non-municipal bonds, such as corporate, government and mortgage-backed securities, that are bought by its middle-market clients.
To do this, it reshuffled several components of its fixed-income business, combining taxable bond trading, general institutional sales, and retail trading into one capital markets unit, and added an institutional advisory function.
Piper Jaffray moved Joe Tessmer, a former senior managing director of U.S. Bancorp Investments, the investment subsidiary, to head general capital markets, and brought on Patrick Gray, former trading manager at U.S. Bancorp Investments, to lead the group's trading activities.
And it created a new institutional advisory function directed at second- and third-tier banks, pension funds, and other institutions that don't have adequate resources to guide their fixed-income investment decisions.
To head this function, the brokerage in late October hired Corey Redfield, a former Merrill Lynch & Co. derivatives specialist, as chief fixed-income strategist. Mr. Redfield most recently owned two financial services companies.
But despite the shuffling, Piper Jaffray will not expand the underwriting and origination activities of its municipal bond business to its other capital markets products, such as mortgage-backed securities, Mr. Stanberry said. "I don't think it makes sense for us," he said.
Analysts said this niche strategy seems to be working for U.S. Bancorp, which has benefited from the relatively smooth integration of Piper Jaffray into the commercial bank.
"The Piper Jaffray acquisition has gone pretty well for U.S. Bancorp because they've been realistic in terms of what they can accomplish," said George Bicher, an analyst at Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown. "A lot of people have stars in their eyes, but they've focused on opportunities that are attainable and not overly expensive."
Instead of branching out into new product lines, the brokerage plans to add people to offices in Southern California and New York. By the end of this quarter, the brokerage also expects to reap benefits from last year's acquisition of asset manager John Nuveen & Co. That deal brought in Nuveen's good-sized municipal bond underwriting business, noted Mr. Stanberry, who will become a senior investment banker in fixed-income at the end of the first quarter.