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Stifel CEO focused more on expense control than M&A

Stifel Financial Corp. Co-Chairman and CEO Ronald Kruszewski is focused more on creating operating efficiencies from the company's recent acquisitions than on looking for more deals.

Stifel has been a serial acquirer, completing more than 20 acquisitions since 2008. The buying spree has helped it increase annual revenue to $2.58 billion in 2016 from $793.1 million in 2007.

"We think we have scale here," Kruszewski said during the company's Jan. 31 earnings conference call.

However, Kruszewski said the company "accepted margin compression" to build the business, and Stifel is now aiming to increase earnings by using the larger size to take out costs. He said the company could reduce real estate costs and also use its purchasing power to lower travel and entertainment expenses.

"What we're focused on now is … harmonizing all the costs of these various deals," he said.

He said the company would continue to look for good deals, but Stifel tends to make acquisitions in down markets. Kruszewski noted that recently there has been more optimism in the financial services marketplace, and that has caused valuations of potential targets to reach a level higher than what Stifel has liked to pay historically.

"It's a good time to focus on consolidating what we built," he said.