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SEATTLE, WA-San Francisco-based investment bank W.R. Hambrecht & Co. has leased office space in the downtown Bank of America Building to accommodate a 20-employee branch office. The new office will be headed by five investment pros when the new quarters are ready for occupancy in mid-January.

Meantime, a core group of W.R. Hambrecht employees has set up a temporary shop at 1111 Third Ave. and are hiring staff, serving existing Seattle area clients and seeking new ones, mostly in the technology field, according to branch manager J. D. Dellafield. Hambrecht has worked with numerous technology companies in the area including Seattle’s InterNap Network Services and Bothell-based Quinton.

The financial community seems to regard the opening of the branch – after the recent opening of a Goldman Sachs office and in the midst of a struggling — as a strong statement of confidence in the city’s economic future. Indeed, the emerging Puget Sound technology market was the main attraction to Hambrecht. The branch intends to focus on technology, branded consumer and biotech deals, Dellafield said. Area entrepreneurs will thus have access to more capital and investment services.

The bank will concentrate initially on underwriting initial public offerings, bonds, brokerage services including research and trading, as well as mergers and acquisitions. Later, when it’s fully staffed, Hambrecht may expand into the field of venture capital, private equity placement and leveraged buyout services, Dellafield said.

The arrival of Hambrecht and Goldman Sachs is a signal of Seattle’s growth as a viable technology center. Before the entry of the two investment bank firms, Washington companies have been underserved, forced to leave town to find essential financial resources. This changes all that. It’s important to have people in close proximity without having to fly off the New York or the Bay Area, said one venture capitalist. Which is exactly what Dellafield is thinking.

“There’s no go-to bank for emerging growth companies,” said Dellafield, who formerly worked for Morgan Stanley in New York and Singapore. “We thought there’d be an advantage in being local so people don’t have to go to New York or San Francisco to get those services.”

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