Boenning & Scattergood is “at the goal line” of an expected restructuring that will include the sale of the investment bank’s private-client advisory and brokerage business and the merger of other units with different firms. But the deal hasn’t closed, its chairman, Harold F. Scattergood Jr., told staff at a noontime gathering Thursday, according to two people close to the company.
The West Conshohocken-based firm thought it had to reassure staff after customers called in asking about Wednesday’s Inquirer story detailing moves that, once concluded, would end the independent status of the 108-year-old firm, though its name would continue for a time as the local brand of a national company.
Boenning is among the last of the investment banks that flourished here through the 1990s, when Philadelphia was a financial center, before its historic banks, insurers, stock exchange and investment houses were sold to national firms. The larger Janney Montgomery Scott investment bank and brokerage, still based in the city, is owned by Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co., of Horsham.
Scattergood promised new ownership, and the care he is taking while finalizing arrangements will benefit colleagues and customers, said the two people close to the company. Scattergood also urged staff not to talk about plans, especially to the news media, for now.
In a statement released Thursday evening, Scattergood confirmed that the firm is spinning off investment businesses, such as its public finance and municipal trading team. He said the firm’s private-investments advisory business, 1914 Advisory, and its brokerage arm will continue to bear the Boenning & Scattergood name. But he would not comment on whether it would affiliate with a larger company, as sources have said.
He also said the firm has about $5 billion in total assets under management.
Scattergood, 74, told employees earlier this year that he was in discussion with a potential brokerage acquirer. He succeeded his father in running the business, but determined on a sale after accepting that his own children were not candidates to take over his ownership stake or run the company, according to people close to the firm.
A potential buyer for Boenning’s brokerage business is LPL Financial Holdings Inc., a national firm that has acquired numerous local brokerages, according to industry sources. The investment bank, headed by Charles “Chad” Hull, has explored separate arrangements, as have the institutional-trading and capital-markets groups.
Joseph Muscatello, of Boenning’s public-finance team, left earlier this year to join St. Louis-based Stifel, which is beefing up its East Coast presence.
Industry changes — including new regulations, automation, pressure from Wall Street giants and discount brokerages — have eclipsed smaller firms that once thrived. To boost profits and keep top salespeople engaged, local and regional firms have felt pressure to get larger or ally themselves with national firms. Boenning has itself been an acquirer in recent years, purchasing Sweney Cartwright & Co. of Columbus, Ohio, for example, in 2019.
Boenning manages significant sums for its individual, small and midsized business clients, but it’s a shadow of the $7 trillion handled by the region’s largest money manager based here, Malvern-based Vanguard Group.
Boenning bankers have raised capital in recent years for clients such as small Eastern and Midwestern banks, Chester County school districts, suburban water and sewer utilities, insurance and health-care firms and other enterprises, with the firm retaining a percentage of the financing as fees.
Philadelphia’s early Chestnut Street rivaled Wall Street as a financial center. The city was long a base for bankers who pioneered financing for U.S. wars, railroads, chemical and electrical industries as well as high-risk “junk bonds” and other specialized finance.
But its big commercial banks were purchased by out-of-town companies in the 1980s and 1990s, eliminating tens of thousands of jobs. By then, a local investment tax had helped drive financial firms to the suburbs and elsewhere, though a few companies were granted special tax breaks to remain.