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JPMorgan commercial bank expands startup focus with new hires

FILE PHOTO: JPMorgan Chase Bank in New York

By Nupur Anand and Lananh Nguyen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co is beefing up its commercial banking business that caters to tech startups and other early-stage companies, the company said on Monday.

The largest U.S. lender plans to add staff after it hired more than a hundred bankers this year to serve companies in the so-called innovation economy in sectors such as technology, e-commerce and life sciences.

"As this year plays out with market disruption and the shift in our competitive landscape, we have substantially heightened our new client acquisition," Doug Petno, JPMorgan's CEO of commercial banking, said in remarks at the bank's investor day in New York on Monday.

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To accommodate the growth, "we're adding incrementally higher front and middle-office support," he added.

The business, which has more than 300 bankers, has benefited from recent banking turmoil sparked by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in March. The failed lender catered to startups and other venture capital-backed firms, and many of its depositors sought safety in larger institutions such as JPMorgan.

Two other regional lenders were subsequently seized by banking regulators, including First Republic Bank, which JPMorgan bought earlier this month.

JPMorgan's broader commercial bank has nearly 25,000 clients, including mid-sized businesses and corporations, government entities and non-profits and more than 33,000 real estate investors or owners.

"We have seen an influx of companies come to us in the last two months that are looking for a more stable environment," said Melissa Smith, head of innovation economy and specialized industries in JPMorgan's middle market banking division.

The business aims to provide startups with basic account services such as payments, cash management and loans before they grow to a size that requires more complex advisory work, such as raising capital through equity or debt offerings.

The new hires include Ashraf Hebela as managing director of innovation economy startup banking, and Kelly Belcher as the head of climate tech within the green economy.

It also aims to expand overseas to serve early-stage companies in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia.

(This story has been corrected to add the dropped word 'clients' in paragraph 7)

(Reporting by Nupur Anand and Lananh Nguyen in New York; Editing by Conor Humphries)