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An oil pump jack pumps oil in a field near Calgary, Alberta, July 21, 2014.TODD KOROL

GMP Capital's takeover of FirstEnergy Capital caused double takes throughout Calgary's energy and finance scenes. But considering how tough those businesses have had it lately, it was about time for a shakeup.

The $99-million transaction certainly upsets what had become an established pecking order among investment banks that serve the oil patch.

For dealers that focus exclusively on energy, times got lean after the bottom dropped out of the global crude market and producers slashed spending to survive.

The way FirstEnergy chief executive John Chambers sees it, the time has come to diversify and scale up after 23 years, with recovery in the industry plodding and volatility the order of the day.

Toronto-based GMP had once been dominant in oil and gas deal-making, but had lost its mojo in recent years, missing out on deals it previously would have led. It was GMP that came calling, and FirstEnergy, which had spurned other takeover offers over the years, decided the times demanded a new script.

Mr. Chambers and his senior FirstEnergy colleagues will run the energy side of the new business, which they are unapologetically calling a "super-independent."

"Our combined organization definitely fills a hole in between the banks and the mid-cap and smaller independent brokerage firms," Mr. Chambers told The Globe and Mail.

Competition is getting fiercer. Talk to any investment banker in town, and they'll say the energy sector is "over-banked." That's even after a number of players, especially small shops, left town in recent years.

Besides other energy-focused investment houses, notably FirstEnergy's top rival Peters & Co., all of the bank-owned dealers and a handful of boutiques and foreign-owned houses are chasing deals in a down market.

Now, with GMP's acquisition of FirstEnergy – the business established in the early 1990s by Brett Wilson, Jim Davidson, Rick Grafton and Murray Edwards – it's suddenly becoming a little less over-banked.

The gamble is that a bigger organization can land ever-growing mergers and financings, even if it can't offer the lending hook that the banks do.

Look at recent business: In the first half of this year, the oil patch racked up $15.5-billion worth of mergers and acquisitions, according to Sayer Energy Advisors. That's up from $9.7-billion in the same period the year before, but just two takeovers by Suncor Energy Inc. represented about half the total.

In equity financing, the industry raised $6.4-billion, down from $8.3-billion in the first half of 2015. Suncor's offering in June accounted for $2.8-billion of the proceeds, and its syndicate comprised only dealers that had also been lenders to the big oil-sands producer.

For years, FirstEnergy and Peters & Co. have been the flagship hometown independents, specializing in merger advice and raising capital for the small-to-mid-size oil, gas and oil-field service companies. They have thrived through the strength of their deep local relationships.

But it's been a rough two years as the deal flow slowed to a trickle at times and dealers were forced to cut staff. GMP and FirstEnergy executives declined to give an estimate of how many jobs could be cut following the takeover, but they play down the idea of big reductions.

A few recent events have showed how things have changed. For one, Suncor Energy issued $2.8-billion of shares in June. It was a hefty deal and the underwriting syndicate included only bank-owned investment houses that had also provided debt-financing to the company in the past.

Traditionally, local independents have been given at least bit parts in such deals, if only as appreciation for maintaining research coverage.

Perhaps more striking for locals, the downturn forced both FirstEnergy and Peters to cancel their Calgary Stampede parties, the premier annual networking and client-appreciation events. They cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to stage, but they had always been seen as necessary, regardless of the business climate.

This hasn't been your average energy downturn, and with crude prices retreating again, it looks like it will last longer than previously expected. A combined GMP and FirstEnergy shows how it's prompted a response that's not at all average either.