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Construction in downtown Calgary, November 27, 2012.

Salman Partners Inc. intends to stay active in the oil patch despite its current challenges. It's just a question of how broadly it will cover the sector, chief executive Terry Salman said.

The resource-focused boutique dealer recently announced several departures of key staff, against a backdrop of weak market conditions and squeezed revenue.

"It's business as usual. We haven't made any changes in Calgary. We've been there a long time and we're going to cover the patch in some capacity," the veteran of Canadian capital markets said in an interview. "But as you know, it's a tough environment for smaller-cap brokerage firms, across the country – not just in Calgary."

Non-bank-owned dealers have struggled to become part of large stock offering syndicates as energy-sector business dropped off, he said. However, activity appears to be picking up, with a resurgence in natural gas markets and a recent increase in merger and acquisition activity.

In the past week, Stephen Calderwood resigned as Salman's senior vice-president of energy investment banking after more than two years in the position.

Oil and gas analyst Justin Anderson left to join Desjardins Securities. Professionals in the firm's Vancouver and Toronto offices have also recently exited.

Mr. Salman said resignations and career moves have always been part of the industry, though the pace of departures has picked up. The dealer now has about 30 staff, down from twice that number seven years ago, and he said he intends to keep costs down.

"There's been lots of attrition, and with a lot of people we parted company on good terms but didn't feel they would make it in the new environment, which is exceedingly tough," he said. "Especially in Calgary, because it's over-banked and there's too many people chasing too few deals when you consider that the banks have the bulk of it."

In 2013, Swiss-owned UBS Securities laid off numerous staff in Calgary, Stonecap Securities closed the doors of its operations in the oil-patch centre and Stifel Canada and Fraser Mackenzie disappeared altogether. Another boutique, Jennings Capital, restructured.

Salman Partners was part of a syndicate led by FirstEnergy Capital for a $70.2-million bought deal of BlackPearl Resources Inc. stock, announced last week, and Mr. Salman predicted there would be more such business in the offing. The firm did not have a piece of the $1.3-billion Baytex offering, the oil patch's largest since 2010.

Salman Parters will keep covering a range of oil companies, despite a preference among larger ones to do financing and merger business with the large bank-owned dealers, he said.

"There are a lot of good companies in Calgary and a lot of them are big companies. We've covered them, but you have to be selective with who you cover because it's hard to get paid as a firm with anything – in sales and trading, in M&A and in syndicates. It's just really difficult," said the 71-year-old executive.

"But I for one am a great believer in the Calgary market, because I had so much success as a young man there myself. I wish it were different and I hope in the future it will be different."

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