Piper Jaffray & Co. (NYSE: PJC) more than doubled deal volume and value in 2014, outpacing competitors in a robust year for dealmaking. The investment bank set itself up well for growth by making two acquisitions in the previous year.

"The credit markets were favorable, and the U.S. economy was on reasonably firm footing, and that is a big driver of activity," says Piper Jaffray CEO Andrew Duff. "It leads to CEO confidence. If you're going to undertake an acquisition, you have to be pretty confident about your existing business."

Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffray closed 77 transactions in 2014, a 114 percent increase from the 36 deals it closed in 2013. Deal value more than doubled too, increasing 191 percent to $13.7 billion from $4.7 billion.

The 2014 growth was due, in part, to the 2013 purchases of Edgeview Partners LP and Partnership Capital Growth - the first acquisitions the firm has made on the investment banking side. Piper Jaffray closed the Edgeview deal in July 2013. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based investment bank has since been assimilated into Piper Jaffray. Piper Jaffray closed the deal for San Francisco-based Partnership Capital Growth on Dec. 31, 2013.

The firm would consider making further acquisitions, specifically for firms that focus on the financial services or energy sectors, according to Duff. Piper Jaffray has been on the lookout since it spun out of U.S. Bancorp in 2003, according to Duff.

When the 120-year old firm considers potential acquisitions, it looks for firms with a cultural fit. Even though it's a public company, employees on Piper Jaffray's M&A side often have similar staying power to those at a boutique firm. "There are a lot of people with 10- or 20-plus years," says Duff, who has worked at the firm for 33 years.

With the acquisition of Edgeview, Piper Jaffray gained access to a wider network of private equity clients in 2014. "The bulk of their business was with the private equity community, and we are stronger with strategic buyers. But when you put our two resumes together, it enhanced our value proposition to both parties," says Duff.

In one of the PE deals, Piper Jaffray helped sell Disa Global Solutions Inc. from PE firm the Riverside Co. to Court Square Capital Partners. Houston-based Disa provides employment- and safety-related services to the oil industry. Despite the target's heavy exposure to the oil sector, where low crude oil prices have been causing problems for energy and energy-services companies alike, Piper Jaffray was able to guide the deal to close without a valuation diminution.

"The key was just having a very competitive process," Duff says. "That makes all the difference. A single party would have probably asked for and negotiated a discount."

Piper Jaffray

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