Though the majority of L.A.’s investment banks are in downtown Los Angeles or on the Westside, Livingstone Partners has set up shop by the surf in the South Bay.

The Chicago-based lower-middle-market investment bank recently opened its first L.A. outpost in Manhattan Beach. The nearness to the airport was appealing – as was the prospect of being steps from the beach.

“The idea of being in a typical midrise building, like a lot of our competitors would be, doesn’t fit our culture,” said Partner Brennan Libbey, 45. “It makes for a great place to meet people that just got off the plane at LAX, to go have a beer at a beach bar as opposed to sitting in a conference room. It’s a more memorable meeting.”

The new outpost is focused on deals with enterprise values between $25 million to $250 million involving businesses housed from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

“There are a lot of companies in that size range, many family owned,” he said. “It made a lot of sense, based on the target market, to have a significant presence in the L.A. market.”

The nearness to Los Angeles International Airport is important because about one-third of Livingstone’s deals involve a cross-border buyer, and there’s a lot of interaction with colleagues in the firm’s European and Beijing offices. The Manhattan Beach location is starting with four bankers and aiming to grow to 10 to 15 within roughly the next 12 to 18 months.

Libbey was eager to join the firm to build something new, but also because as a business services banker, a lot of his deals involved companies in the lower-middle market. And his former firm, Century City’s Houlihan Lokey, had increasingly catered to a higher-priced market, he said.

“For me, it was a decision to really have an ability to do something fairly entrepreneurial,” Libbey said, “and also join a group I had a lot of confidence in being successful.”

Regional Spread

Having entered the L.A. market seven years ago, JPMorgan Chase’s middle-market banking and specialized industries group is now looking to expand.

Whereas the group’s first banker set up a one-man shop here after Chase bought Washington Mutual in 2008, the team has grown to two offices, in downtown Los Angeles and Chatsworth, and will add Long Beach and San Gabriel Valley locations by the end of the year. The group has already added eight bankers this year and plans to hire more to support growth over the next two years.

“We continue to invest and gain market share one employee and one client at a time,” said Brennon Crist, a JPMorgan Chase managing director and region manager for the group, who said Chase chose Long Beach and the San Gabriel Valley for the new locations as an efficient way to cover more of the region.

“Los Angeles is a massive economy; there are literally thousands of middle-market-sized companies throughout the greater L.A. area,” Crist noted. “Given the overall size and geographic dispersion across the greater L.A. area, generally speaking, it’s an attractive opportunity to continue to invest in more employees and middle-market offices.”

Adding Up

San Francisco-based accounting firm Hemming Morse is more than doubling the head count at its downtown L.A. office.

The firm, which focuses on forensic and financial consulting, now has seven people in the local office, most picked up from Mountain View financial and economic expert firm LitiNomics. The latter has cut back on some of its services as Hemming Morse was looking to beef up its SoCal presence, said Hemming Morse Partner Christian Tregillis, 48, who came over from LitiNomics.

“Los Angeles is a huge market,” said Tregillis, whose new firm specializes in large-scale financial investigations and work evaluating economic damages and business valuations. “Hemming is a firm with a strong presence in Northern California … and it’s trying to take advantage of that strong brand and reputation and expand where it can.”

Executive Moves

CIT Group Inc., Livingston, N.J., parent of Pasadena’s CIT Bank, has named John C. Erickson president of consumer banking and the California region. He’ll be based in Pasadena. … San Francisco-based MUFG Union Bank’s investment advisory and brokerage subsidiary, UnionBanc Investment Services, has hired Deborah Valenzuela as a managing director and regional sales manager in its downtown L.A. office. … Irvine’s Banc of California has added three bankers to its downtown L.A. office: Michael Andrews, senior director and commercial banking segment manager, and Cynthia Reeves and Janice Patterson, commercial banking senior directors.

Staff reporter Marni Usheroff can be reached at musheroff@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 229.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.