* BMO to add insurance coverage to FIG team
* Hiring announcements seen 'in a month or two'
* M&A head hopes for many more relationships like ICE
By Paritosh Bansal and Nadia Damouni
NEW YORK, June 27 Bank of Montreal's (BMO.TO) BMO Capital Markets, fresh from a two-year hiring spree, is further staffing up its U.S. investment bank to take advantage of a surging market for merger advisory.
The bank is planning to hire investment bankers in the United States for its financial services, real estate and technology teams this year, Perry Hoffmeister, head of U.S. investment and corporate banking, told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
BMO has jumped higher in the rankings for advising mid-sized companies, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.
It has also won advisory roles in bigger deals recently, having advised IntercontinentalExchange (ICE.N) in its $11 billion bid for NYSE Euronext NYX.N.
The bank hired aggressively through the financial crisis, recruiting more than 130 people, including bankers and traders, in the U.S. business since 2009. It has already hired 32 people so far this year.
In financial services, the bank will add insurance investment banking to its specialty finance and exchanges coverage, he said.
"One of the strategic decisions BMO made a couple of years ago was to take advantage of the financial crisis and the strength with which BMO came through that crisis to really build out the US and hire a number of professionals who otherwise might not have been available," said Hoffmeister.
Hoffmeister was among the bank's hires during the financial crisis, joining in April 2010 after a career spanning two decades at Lehman Brothers.
In the coming months, the bank will make hiring announcements as bankers come off "gardening leave," Hoffmeister said, referring to the time bankers must contractually take off between jobs for competitive reasons.
On Monday, BMO said Benjamin Riback had joined the firm as a director in its Food, Consumer & Retail Group from Citigroup Inc (C.N).
In April, ICE teamed up with Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ.O) to launch a takeover bid for NYSE, rivaling the Big Board parent's existing deal with Deutsche Boerse (DB1Gn.DE). ICE also got advice from Lazard Ltd (LAZ.N) and Broadhaven Capital Partners.
The Nasdaq-ICE bid did not eventually succeed, as antitrust regulators pulled the plug.
But for BMO landing the advisory role in such a large transaction was an affirmation of a strategy of staying and growing with companies in its sweet spot -- $200 million to $5 billion in market capitalization -- said Scott Humphrey, head of U.S. M&A.
ICE, which was established in 2000 and which has grown dramatically through a number of acquisitions, has been a BMO client for a long time, Humphrey said.
"We have grown with ICE over the years," Humphrey said. "Some of the bankers have changed, but that is a relationship that we have had for a number of years."
"I would like to have 200 more like that, but we are building those stories one by one," Humphrey said. (Reporting by Paritosh Bansal and Nadia Damouni, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)