As a relative unknown in the U.S. market, Investec gets some quizzical looks from other firms, who often warm up after doing research on the South African powerhouse, Brennan said.

"Because we're not American, we have no brand awareness or recognition here. We actually need to sell the concept to them," said Brennan. He added that the prospect of partnering with the ambitious U.S. outpost of a well-backed foreign firm should be attractive to acquisition targets.

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