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Banking

San Francisco retells the growth story

US smaller-cap growth companies lost much of their investment banking support after the tech boom collapsed in 2000. But three firms with a solid research base and San Francisco roots are working hard to fill the gap. Antony Currie reports.

Who works at a new boutique? | The fall and rise of the Bay Area

Ford, Curhan and Merriman

ONE IS ABOUT to participate in its first lead-managed initial public offering. A second can point to a better flow of deals done. Another can reel off a longer list of IPOs and M&A mandates already under its belt. And all insist that research is crucial to its franchise. None has been in existence for longer than five years, each has started to expand out of San Francisco, and all are profitable.

The three firms – JMP Securities; ThinkEquity; and Merriman, Curhan and Ford – aspire to be the new force in investment banking for the sorts of companies whose heady rise in the 1990s led to the stock market boom and bust: the technology sector.

But the way executives at each firm describe themselves is broader than tech. "Our goal is to be the leading financier for companies under $2 billion market cap, for fast-growing companies," says Jon Merriman, CEO of Merriman, Curhan and Ford.

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