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Toronto-based investment bank Origin Merchant Partners is expanding into the U.S. market by acquiring Chicago-based InterOcean Advisors, creating a firm with more than 40 bankers in five cities.

Origin and InterOcean advise mid-sized public and private companies on mergers, acquisitions and raising capital, and are among a number of boutique investment dealers created in recent years by veterans of larger banks or professional services firms. The two employee-owned firms worked together on a number of cross-border transactions prior to merging.

“We are excited to join forces with InterOcean,” Jim Meloche, Origin’s managing partner, said in a press release. “With its deal and sector expertise, coupled with an extensive network of industry and capital provider relationships, the InterOcean team will enable us to better serve our US and Canadian clients across a range of sectors.”

M&A investment bank Origin Merchant Partners expands into Quebec

Two former leaders of Ernst & Young’s corporate finance team for automotive, building products and other industrial clients – Bill Doepke and Bob Wujtowicz – founded InterOcean in 2006. They named the firm after a Chicago business newspaper launched in the 1800s with a “pro-American industry stance” that became a touchstone publication for readers across the U.S. Midwest. Both founders are joining the merged firm.

Going forward, the company will be known as Origin, with offices in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Atlanta and Denver. The two investment banks did not release financial terms of the transaction.

Last year, Origin welcomed veteran investment banker Darren Williams as a principal in its Toronto office. He also began his career at E&Y, then went on to become an adviser to industrial companies and leader of the team that covers the sector for Origin. Mr. Williams said: “The combination of our capabilities will expand on the benefits we bring to our industrials clients, deepening our talent pool and growing our network of key relationships in the sector.”

Over the past two years – during the COVID-19 pandemic – Origin and InterOcean have completed more than 25 transactions, advising entrepreneurs and companies on divestitures, acquisitions and capital raising.

Boutique advisory firms such as Origin have successfully pitched their services as conflict-free alternative to bank-owned investment dealers, which earn fees from lending and underwriting equity offerings along with providing advice on transactions. A number of Origin’s founders started their careers at the investment banking arm of CIBC, then moved to independent dealers.

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