Jeffries Expands: What Does This Mean for Them?

The global economy has been struggling for some time, with most sectors seeing substantial stagnation and/or contraction. As a result, investment has dried up in a large number of industries and nations. That’s why when an investment bank decides to expand despite this sluggish period, it gets some attention.

In June of 2012, Jefferies Group, Inc. officially announced its intention to expand its operations into Canada. To accomplish this, the company hired Steven Latimer to be Jefferies’s Managing Director and Head of Canadian Investment Banking. He will be based in Toronto and will initially focus on Canada’s metals and mining sector.

Jefferies is an international investment banking firm that has been around for over half a century. The company offers a full range of financial services to governments, businesses, and individuals. Its clients can be found in Europe, Asia, and South America as well as North America.

Like many other firms, Jefferies has seen its stock fluctuate significantly, with its stock beginning in June at $12.60 per share and then jumping to above $13.60 a week later before tumbling to $12.16 just before the expansion announcement. Since then, the stock has continued to oscillate substantially, but closed at $12.72 as of July 6 (NASDAQ:JEF).

Latimer brings an impressive resume to Jefferies Group. He has amassed twenty-two years of experience in investment banking and was most recently the Head of Canadian Metals and Mining Investment Banking for Credit Suisse. The chartered financial analyst spent fifteen years in Toronto and Calgary working for UBS Securities.

Jefferies’s foray into Canada is targeting one of that nation’s most longstanding industries. About one out of every fifty Canadian jobs is centered around the mining and mineral processing industry, and hundreds of companies are hard at work mining raw materials such as copper, nickel, silver, gold, zinc, iron, potash, and coal. Around 4% of Canada’s gross domestic product comes from the metals and minerals sector, and the country boasts around a fourth of the international investment banking in mining. Although the industry has been slowed by the global economic downturn, the long-term forecast appears to be solid.

Toronto, being the undisputed global mining finance capital, is the most logical place for Jefferies to set up shop in Canada if the firm wants to jump into the mining industry. The city is also home to the Toronto Stock Exchange as well as some 400 exploration and mining company offices. Toronto will join Paris, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Washington, and a dozen other cities where Jefferies’s offices are based.

Latimer’s appointment to head a Canadian office is not the only indication of Jefferies’s intention to expand its mining arm. The firm reportedly also plans to ask for a spot on the trading floor of the London Metal Exchange. Currently, Jefferies can only trade via telephone and electronically through the exchange, but a bump in designation from a Category 2 trader to a Category 1 on the LME would signal an increased commitment to the firm’s commodities trading business overall.

What does this move mean for Jefferies Group in the long term? The investment bank appears to be pouring more resources into an industry that has remained relatively stable in recent years (or, in the case of gold, has flourished). If executed successfully, Jefferies could take positions that could help hedge against its assets in industries that are still flagging in the world economy. Plus, if middle-class economies do expand over the next decade as some experts say they will, then the raw materials mined in Canada will become a key part of that growth. All in all, Jefferies’s establishment of a mining industry base camp in Toronto seems to be a smart move for the global financial services company.

Canada is not the only new geographic locale where Jefferies hopes to broaden its footprint. In April of 2013, the firm announced that it entering into an alliance with a company in Thailand. Asia Plus Securities Public Company Limited is a top financial services firm in Thailand, offering securities brokerage, equity research, asset and wealth management, investment banking, and other services to its clients. By the beginning of 2014, Asia Plus will be sharing equity research on Thai companies with Jefferies clients.

The alliance with Asia Plus was a natural extension of Jefferies’s strategy in Asia to expand its business on that continent. In November of 2012, the firm appointed five new senior-level executives to its Asia Investment Banking group, which is based in Hong Kong. Sherry Liu, Danny Wong, Charles Zhou, Qing Zhu, and Richard Yang brought a combined 73 years of experience into Jefferies’s AIB business.

But perhaps the most significant change to Jefferies Group in the past calendar year is its merger with Leucadia National Corporation. The corporate marriage, which was consummated in March of 2013, saw Jefferies drawn into the Leucadia umbrella as a subsidiary, as well as its transformation from a corporation into a limited liability company.

Leucadia, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, is a diversified holding company with subsidiaries in a wide range of industries, including gaming, entertainment, beef processing, real estate, manufacturing, and medical products.

Despite the inconsistent trends in the overall world markets, Jefferies Group has demonstrated a willingness to expand into other markets rather than shrink its global footprint. This undoubtedly signals a strong desire by Jefferies management to position itself as a leader in its core areas of expertise around the world. If and when the global economy recovers, expect Jefferies Group to be a leader in worldwide investment banking more locations than ever before.

Chris Martin is a freelance writer who writes about topics ranging from investment banking to consumer finance to Spokeo removal.

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