Once upon a time, there were four investment banks: Alex Brown, Montgomery Securities, Robertson Stephens, and Hambrecht & Quist -- known as the "Four Horsemen." They catered to mid-size growth companies and did quite well during the bull markets. But they eventually were merged or purged out of existence.
With initial public offerings (IPOs) and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) coming back, there will certainly be a need for middle-market investment banks. One that could be a significant beneficiary is Jefferies Group
In fact, last week the company announced it has purchased Broadview International LLC, an investment bank focusing on the technology sector. While it had feasted on tech M&A in the late 1990s, the firm suffered greatly during the tech depression.
The price tag was not disclosed, which means Jefferies likely got the company at a bargain price. Also, Jefferies is known for its discipline, and this may explain why it did not jump to buy SoundView Technology Group
The deal for Broadview is similar to Jefferies' purchase of Quarterdeck Investment Partners in 2002, a middle-market investment bank specializing in defense and aerospace. It was particularly good timing, as the industry heated up greatly and added to Jeffries' bottom line.
Like the major investment banks, Jefferies has survived the bear market through its trading business, of which it has a strong presence in tech (see what Goldman Sachs
Terrible markets can be an opportune time to build a much more competitive business. This is what Jefferies has been doing, by hiring key people who were fired from top banks, buying companies, and building up its research.
The middle market is clearly underserved when it comes to investment banking. Jefferies is one of the few in the saddle to benefit.
Tom Taulli is the author of six books on investing, including Investing in IPOs (Bloomberg Press), as well as a professor of finance at the USC School of Business (don't worry, but he does come out of his ivory tower). You can reach him at email@example.com.