Macquarie expanding at Riverplace Tower

(Courtesy of Financial News and Daily Record)

Australia-based Macquarie Group is expanding onto another floor at Riverplace Tower on the Downtown Southbank.

The financial services company opened in Jacksonville in February 2016 on the fifth floor of the Southbank high-rise and had already leased the fourth story in anticipation of growth.

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When Macquarie Group opened in February 2016 in Riverplace Tower, it showed an open floor plan designed for flexibility.

Now it’s moving into about half of that floor.

Brasfield & Gorrie LLC is the contractor for the $850,000 project to demolish the interior of 8,500 square feet of space. The city is reviewing a permit application.

The project includes demolition of all interior components including partitions, finishes, ceilings and more.

Riverplace Tower is at 1301 Riverplace Blvd.

A company spokesman in New York declined comment about the expansion, the number of employees in Jacksonville or plans to hire more.

Jobs posted online recently for Macquarie in Jacksonville include positions in tax accounting, financial control, financial accounting, product control, regulatory reporting, compliance analyst and financial analyst.

The global financial-services company started with 60 employees on the fifth floor and anticipated reaching 135 employees this year.

However, the two floors can accommodate 250.

“We are anticipating success,” said Glen Skarott, deputy group financial controller, as the office opened.

Skarott, based at the company’s headquarters in Sydney, Australia, started the Jacksonville operation. He led the site search that ended in Jacksonville after the company considered 17 cities in five countries.

Skarott, Macquarie executives and city and business leaders announced in July 2015 the company had chosen Jacksonville as a global banking shared-services office.

The team provides finance, accounting, tax and regulatory support and other services to Macquarie functions in the U.S. and in some European markets.

Its U.S. headquarters is in New York and it has offices around the country. The United States is a large growth market.

In coming to Jacksonville, Macquarie agreed to create 123 jobs by the end of this year and pay an average wage of $64,356, in addition to benefits.

Skarott said 800 applications were made for the initial Jacksonville jobs.

The first 60 employees comprised 40 local hires and 20 transfers from Macquarie Group offices in London, Hong Kong, India, New York, Houston and Sydney.

Jacksonville’s office was designed to comprise five teams: product control; legal entity control; regulatory reporting; tax reporting and compliance; and financial control.

Macquarie initially leased about 17,500 square feet on the fifth floor at Riverplace Tower. That space is set up for 125 employees, but could fit in more, Skarott said previously.

He said then that if Macquarie doesn’t need all of the fourth-floor space, it could sublease it, although Skarott said the preference was to use it.

For those first 123 jobs, the City Council approved taxpayer incentives of $393,600, comprising a Qualified Target Industry grant of up to $147,600 and a training grant up to $246,000.

Macquarie also requested $1.37 million from the state, consisting of the QTI match of up to $590,400, a Quick Action Closing Fund up to $500,000 and a Quick Response Training Grant up to $282,900.

Macquarie said it expects to invest $2.2 million into improving its leased space. Adding in IT, equipment and furniture boosts that to at least $3.1 million.

Last June, the company appointed Anthony Glenn to lead the Jacksonville office starting July 5.

At the time, Macquarie employed about 70 people in Jacksonville and was recruiting about 30 more finance professionals.

It also had invested more than $3 million into the Riverplace Tower offices.

Wells Fargo to launch pilot with Facebook Messenger

(Courtesy of Jacksonville Business Journal)

Wells Fargo & Co. is launching a pilot to test an artificial intelligence-driven experience through Facebook Messenger.

The San Francisco-based bank — the third-largest bank in Central Florida — has hinted at incorporating financial services into third-party environments for a while now. Steve Ellis, head of Wells Fargo’s Innovation Group, talked about implementing banking tools in Facebook Messenger with sister paper Charlotte Business Journal earlier this year.

“It all comes back to making it easier for customers to do business with you,” Ellis said at the time.

“Our goal is to deliver information ‘in the moment’ to help customers make better informed financial decisions,” Ellis said in a statement Tuesday. “AI technology allows us to take an experience that would have required our customers to navigate through several pages on our website, and turn it into a simple conversation in a chat environment. That’s a huge time- saving convenience for busy customers who are already frequent users of Messenger.”

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) says it has provided assistance to customers through Facebook since 2009. In May 2016, the bank adopted Messenger and its main channel for addressing customer questions and problems.

Facebook users have been able to send and receive money on Messenger since 2015. The social-media platform announced April 11 users can now send and receive money between groups of people on Messenger, using Android phones or desktop computers. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Wells Fargo pilot.

Most of Wells Fargo’s customer engagements now happen over Messenger, rather than on its public news feed.

The bank announced in February Ellis would lead a new team called the artificial intelligence enterprise solutions team. Since its sales scandal emerged last September, Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo’s new CEO, has said the bank is relying on technology to rebuild trust.

Most of the large banks in the U.S. are experimenting with artificial intelligence. Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America’s virtual assistant, called Erica, is expected to launch this summer.

Vale megadeal puts Morgan Stanley, Bradesco at the top of Brazil M&A

(Courtesy of Reuters.com)

Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Banco Bradesco BBI SA topped Brazil’s mergers and acquisitions rankings in the first quarter, buoyed by advisory roles in the $21 billion corporate reorganization of Vale SA (VALE5.SA), the world’s No.1 iron ore producer.

New York-based Morgan Stanley and Bradesco BBI, the investment-banking arm of Brazil’s No. 3 listed lender Banco Bradesco SA (BBDC4.SA), surpassed rivals in last quarter’s rankings by almost 10 times in terms of announced M&A volumes, Thomson Reuters deals intelligence data showed on Tuesday.

Both banks advised two of Vale’s main shareholders on the deal. Under the terms of the reorganization, Vale will become a company with no defined controlling shareholder within three years, a landmark step to help stifle state interference in the company.

The deal represents a milestone in a country long hobbled by corporate governance scandals and reorganizations that hurt minority investors. It comes as Brazil’s government is selling dozens of power and sanitation utilities, as well as assets of state-controlled oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4.SA).

Companies announced $27.121 billion worth of Brazil-related mergers from January to March, up six-fold from a year earlier, the data showed. Excluding Vale, the value of M&A deals reached $6.195 billion, less than half the amount seen in the same period four years ago, before the recession struck.

The number of deals in the first quarter fell 35 percent to 108 from a year earlier, the data showed.

Stricter legal and regulatory scrutiny has continued to put the brakes on M&A announcements this year, compounding the impact of the recession and political turmoil that has kept keeping buyers and sellers at odds over valuations.

According to Alessandro Zema and Eduardo Miras, co-heads of Brazil investment banking for Morgan Stanley, M&A deals should accelerate this year, even if increased debt and equity capital markets activity posed some competition for the segment.

Declining borrowing costs and a stable currency could spur Brazil’s recovery and the pace of takeovers through year-end, they said. More consolidation efforts could take place, as companies try to cut debt, improve their capital and tax structures, and become more efficient.

“It’s very hard for a strategic player or a financial sponsor to ignore Brazil because of the cycle,” Zema said. “The country’s economy offers relevant opportunities for global players in almost every segment of activity.”

According to Alessandro Farkuh, Bradesco BBI’s head of M&A, more strategic players will seek to enter Brazil as President Michel Temer’s administration passes pension, labor market and tax reforms aimed at restoring confidence in the economy.

“Activity will grow in a more robust manner once the macroeconomic uncertainties dissipate and players feel the outlook has turned much more predictable,” Farkuh said.

A challenge for buyers and sellers alike remains a lengthening M&A execution cycle. Still, growing interest from multinational companies and buyout firms in potential targets “is leading to a more adequate pricing of assets,” Bradesco BBI’s Farkuh said.

Even as the list of delayed deals kept growing last quarter, advisory work remains intense, forcing banks to shuffle staff from areas with lighter workloads to handle more M&A and debt restructuring transactions.

Morgan Stanley topped value rankings after working on four transactions worth $21.663 billion, followed by Bradesco BBI’s seven deals valued at $21.424 billion. Morgan Stanley last topped Brazil’s first-quarter M&A league tables in 2000.

Itaú Unibanco Holding SA’s (ITUB4.SA) investment bank led the number of deal rankings after working on 10 transactions.

RANKING FINANCIAL ADVISORY VALUE OF NUMBER RANKING

FIRST-Q FIRM DEALS (Jan. OF DEALS FIRST-Q

UARTER 1-March 31) (Jan. UARTER

2017 1-March 2016

31)

1 Morgan Stanley & $21.663 bln 4 14

Co

2 Banco Bradesco BBI $21.424 bln 7 6

SA

3 Banco BTG Pactual $1.875 bln 4 1

SA

4 Citigroup Inc $1.656 bln 1 n.a.

5 Goldman Sachs $1.656 bln 2 n.a.

Group Inc

6 Itaú BBA SA $919.4 mln 10 2

7 Credit Suisse $706.4 mln 1 14

Group AG

8 JPMorgan Chase & $608.4 mln 2 14

Co

9 Bank of America $517.9 mln 2 4

Merrill Lynch

10 PriceWaterhouseCoo $296.4 mln 2 14

pers

SUBTOTAL WITH $26.123 bln 39 –

FINANCIAL ADVISER

INDUSTRY TOTAL $27.121 bln 108 –