By Anirban Sen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Goldman Sachs told Reuters it has hired two investment bankers from rival banks as part of a push to advise on more smaller deals worth up to $2 billion.

The Wall Street investment bank has hired Kerry Burke from Evercore and Eddie Rubin from Lazard (NYSE:). Burke, who focused on the retail and apparel sectors at Evercore, will join Goldman in August, while Rubin, who advises on deals in the digital infrastructure industry, joined the bank in April.

Best known for its advisory work on mega deals, Goldman has in recent years been working to expand in so-called middle-market transactions to boost and diversify its revenue.

Goldman set up the unit, called the cross markets group (CMG), in 2019 and tasked veteran banker David Friedland to run it, as the bank sought to increase its share of fees from advising on smaller acquisitions.

“Our people who are doing middle-market deals are excited about the entrepreneurial aspect of the business – they deal with family-owned businesses, founder-run businesses, sponsor portfolio companies and companies that are growing rapidly. This is all highly attractive business for GS,” said Friedland, who is a partner at Goldman.

Friedland has held various titles during his 26 years at Goldman and spent a majority of his career advising top clients in the consumer and retail industry. Notable deals Friedland has advised on include Brookfield Property’s takeover of mall operator GGP, and Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:)’ $6.3 billion sale of its Vegas properties, including the Venetian casino resort.

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The CMG unit, which currently houses 200 employees, focuses on covering seven industries – consumer & retail, real estate, financial institutions, technology media & telecom, industrials, healthcare and natural resources. Goldman has assigned 10 investment bankers to focus on coverage of five of those sectors, while another banker, Todd Byers, was recently tasked with driving private equity dealmaking.

Over the past few years, top boutique investment banks including Evercore, Centerview Partners and PJT Partners (NYSE:), embarked on aggressive hiring sprees for top dealmakers as they sought to capture a bigger share of advice on mega deals that generate huge paydays for advisers.

That strategy has resulted in more opportunities for Wall Street powerhouses like Goldman, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:) to pick up fees on middle-market deals that are being passed on by boutique advisory firms and other top-tier rivals.

Moreover, a slowdown in dealmaking coupled with a tougher regulatory environment has forced top banks to hunt for newer opportunities to generate fees.

Friedland pointed out that having a big balance sheet and capital markets expertise also gives large banks an advantage on deals over boutique advisory firms that focus only on M&A advisory.

According to data from Dealogic, the number of M&A transactions worth between $500 million and $2 billion has risen 19% in the Americas and EMEA to 206 so far this year. Goldman has advised on 39 of those deals this year, up 44% from the same period last year.

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