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‘You have the large banks who have a significant amount of market share, [and] we think we can step in right below them and take market share away from them,’ CEO Shawn Matthews says .Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. is looking to get a lot bigger in Canada, targeting a slot in the market just under the country's big bank-owned securities firm.

"If you look at the market structure up there," said New York-based CEO Shawn Matthews in an interview, "you have the large banks who have a significant amount of market share, [and] we think we can step in right below them and take market share away from them."

U.S.-based Cantor on Friday hired three more people for their Canadian operations, and has been steadily adding since getting a bigger foothold in Canada in 2012 with purchase of boutique investment bank Versant Partners.

Cantor is not as well known on this side of the border as some other, bigger U.S. firms, but it has a long history. Founded in 1945, Cantor is one of the small group of primary dealers that can transact directly with the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The firm has made a mark as one that's willing to try ventures that might be considered a bit far out by other firms – from being an early adopter of high-speed electronic trading to running an exchange that enables investors to buy and sell virtual shares of movie stars.

Cantor's growth plans are a vote of confidence in a marketplace that has seen other firms back out amid a paucity of deals. Stifel Nicolaus, for example, is a mid-sized U.S. securities firm that abruptly shut its Canadian operations in the summer. Those moves provide a chance for Cantor to grow, and four of the company's recent hires have come from Stifel's old ranks.

The firm is not expecting an immediate pickup in Canadian business.

"We're taking a longer-term approach to the opportunity that is up there," Mr. Matthews said. "We think there will be consolidation in the marketplace. We want to be someone who is acquiring that talent."

The firm is interested in getting bigger in areas such as underwriting and in commodity industries.

"If you look at the clientele they match up very well with our U.S. clientele, so it's an easy extension," he said. "You have a significant amount of serial financiers who are looking to get into the capital markets and that makes it pretty attractive to us."

Mr. Matthews characterized the Versant purchase as "dipping a toe."

"We clearly intend to get much bigger," Mr. Matthews said.