MINNEAPOLIS - U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray has created a team for selling, trading, and underwriting convertible securities by hiring three experts who fled in the aftermath of a December merger.

The three joined the San Francisco investment bank Thursday from Prudential Volpe Technology Group, a technology-oriented San Francisco investment bank that Prudential Securities bought in December. Their appointment is to be announced within a week.

Heading Piper Jaffray's new convertibles group is F. Edward O'Rourke, whose history in the business includes stints at Societe Generale Securities and Merrill Lynch & Co. His new title is managing director in convertible trading.

With him came Claude Desouza-Lawrence, a vice president and convertible analyst; and Alok Reejhsinghani, a convertible bond trader.

Piper Jaffray, the investment bank and capital markets group of U.S. Bancorp, has been building its San Francisco staff to wrestle market share from other niche technology firms, including Chase H&Q, Robertson Stephens & Co., and Thomas Weisel Partners.

Since January the U.S. Bancorp unit has brought on 50 people, mostly in capital markets.

It said it expects to add about 70 more by yearend.

The convertibles business is becoming increasingly important as young companies in growth industries like technology mature.

"As they grow, we need to offer financing alternatives," said Antonio Cecin, senior managing director and head of equity capital markets trading at Piper Jaffray in an interview at its investor conference this week in Minneapolis. "We were at a competitive disadvantage without it."

Prudential closed Volpe's sales and trading operation and merged certain functions with its own New York operations. That lead to a wave of defections. Several San Francisco firms have snapped up Volpe employees for investment banking and capital markets jobs.

Since January, 22 salesmen and traders have joined the San Francisco firm W.R. Hambrecht and a senior telecommunications services analyst has joined Robertson Stephens, a unit of FleetBoston Financial Corp.

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