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Over the past two years, boutique investment bank Greenhill & Co. beefed up its Canadian office by recruiting Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley veterans.

On Tuesday, that team flexed its financing muscle by stepping up as the sole adviser to the federal government on its $4.5-billion acquisition of the Trans Mountain pipeline project from Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd.

New York-based Greenhill worked with the Canadian government on the purchase of the 1,100-kilometre pipeline, which is expected to close by the fall, and also won the mandate to advise Ottawa on the planned sale of Trans Mountain, an assignment that’s expected to take months or even years to play out.

Read more: Selling Trans Mountain to private sector is Ottawa’s ‘long-term preference,’ Morneau says

Opinion: When should the Canadian government get out of the pipeline business?

Across the table, TD Securities advised Kinder Morgan on the pipeline sale, an assignment that includes rendering a fairness opinion on the transaction for the company’s board of directors.

Executives at rival dealers said advising the federal government on Trans Mountain, while prestigious, is a difficult assignment because Ottawa insisted, in its confidential request for proposals, on onerous conflict-of-interest restrictions, including commitments that might preclude an investment bank from doing work for pipeline companies. Several investment banks said they opted not to bid for the federal government’s business because they were concerned they would miss out on future deals. Greenhill executives declined to comment Wednesday about the terms of their mandate.

The high-profile Trans Mountain assignment is the latest in a string of recent Canadian deals for Greenhill bankers. The firm also advised the special committee at Pure Industrial REIT on its $3.1-billion acquisition by Blackstone Property Partners, and worked for the special committee at Brookfield Canada Office Properties when the company was taken over last year by Brookfield Property Partners LP in a $4.3-billion transaction.

Analysis: Kinder Morgan walks away from Trans Mountain a little richer, but real prize is cash that would flow from tariffs

Also: What the Trans Mountain pipeline will mean for B.C.’s coast

Greenhill was founded in 1996 by merger and acquisition specialist Robert Greenhill, a Morgan Stanley veteran whose vision was to build a firm that offered high-end advisory services on takeovers, restructurings and financing, and steered clear of lending or trading securities. That less-is-more theme, and increasingly onerous U.S. bank regulation, has inspired the creation of a number of boutique dealers.

Greenhill opened in Canada in 2006 and, until recently, staffed the office with a handful of bankers.

In 2016, Greenhill landed Goldman Sachs veteran Steve Mayer as its Canadian president, part of a larger recruiting drive in which fellow Goldman banker Michael Nessim joined as a managing director. Mining specialist Thomas Barber signed on last year as Greenhill’s vice-chairman in Canada, after a lengthy run at Morgan Stanley and stops at other global firms.

On Mr. Mayer’s watch, Greenhill’s Canadian crew expanded from five to 12 bankers linked to a global network that features 15 offices in 10 countries. The domestic and international team is now charged with finding a buyer for a fixer-upper Trans Mountain pipeline that requires something in the neighbourhood of $7-billion in renovations, and is currently owned by the people of Canada.

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