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Bold Types

Robertson Stephens returns to Boston in hunt for wealthy clients

Robertson Stephens
Joe Piazza

The opportunity to bring back an iconic financial brand from the dead was simply too good to pass up for Joe Piazza.

He was an executive at Robertson Stephens in July 2002 when its owner, FleetBoston Financial Corp., abruptly shut down the once high-flying investment bank that roamed Silicon Valley for big deals. But Piazza never quite gave up on “Robbie,” as it was affectionately known, and colleagues over the years suggested he revive the company — or at least the part he ran that managed money for wealthy clients.

Piazza eventually bought the brand name, Robertson Stephens, for $260,000. Two years ago he reopened Robbie at 555 California St., the same 52-story San Francisco skyscraper where the firm was once based. The new Robbie is focused on wealth management, not red-hot technology IPOs, as its predecessor was known for.

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And now it’s returning to Boston, once its second-biggest city. Piazza last month hired away Jerry Nigro and Virginia Madden from UBS to launch a small office in Two International Place. There are also plans for offices in New York, Chicago, and southern California.

“The respect for our brand is very strong in Boston [and] there’s an increasing amount of ‘new wealth’ throughout New England,” said Piazza, who came out of retirement to run Robbie. “Things have changed, times have changed [but] they’re different in a good way. I could be the happiest post-retired, 72-year-old on the planet.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.