Merger in New England: Robertson Stephens Unit CEO Sees Major Plus to Fleet Deal: Affiliation with Quick & Reilly

By Tarquinio, J. Alex | American Banker, March 16, 1999 | Go to article overview

Merger in New England: Robertson Stephens Unit CEO Sees Major Plus to Fleet Deal: Affiliation with Quick & Reilly


Tarquinio, J. Alex, American Banker


Michael McCaffery, chief executive officer of BancBoston Robertson Stephens, delivered a pep talk to his staff Monday morning about the advantages its parent's planned merger with Fleet Financial Group would bring to the firm.

Chief among them: an affiliation with Quick & Reilly, the nation's third-largest discount brokerage, bought by Fleet for $1.6 billion in 1997.

"Quick & Reilly gives us something we have never had: a traditional retail channel," Mr. McCaffery said in an interview yesterday.

For the first time, Robertson Stephens, a San Francisco investment bank known for bringing technology firms public, would have a direct route for getting its stock issues into the hands of retail investors.

That and other potential perks set the BankBoston Corp.-Fleet Financial deal apart from its latest brush with a parent banking company's merger.

Only months after Robertson Stephens was sold to BankAmerica Corp. in 1997, BankAmerica set plans to combine with NationsBank Corp. NationsBank owned Montgomery Securities, a rival San Francisco equities firm.

As a result of that deal, BankAmerica spun Robertson Stephens off last year to BankBoston Corp. for $400 million in cash and a $400 million employee retention pool.

By comparison, the BankBoston-Fleet merger announcement is a bit ho-hum, a Robertson Stephens banker said.

"We've done this before in a much more disruptive situation," said one insider.

Still, Robertson Stephens executives said they were excited about adding Quick & Reilly to their mix. Though the firm has a large global institutional brokerage-with about 50 salespeople and 500 accounts in the United States and Europe-executives have long pondered how best to establish a retail channel.

Last year they founded a high-net worth brokerage aimed at executives with the companies that are their investment banking clients.

Robertson Stephens also has a strategic relationship with E-Trade, which it brought public, providing the on-line broker with research and equity products.

The long-term future of that alliance remains undetermined, though Mr. McCaffery said he anticipates continuing it for the foreseeable future. Quick & Reilly founded rival on-line broker Suretrade in 1997.

Though Fleet said last week it might consider spinning off Suretradespeculating that the bank could get as much as $600 million for the on-line unit-Mr. …

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