Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. plans to double its European presence over the next couple of years, either organically or through acquisitions, as part of a push to expand its broker-dealer and investment banking franchises.

Chief executive Shawn Matthews, who was in London this week for meetings with clients and members of the media, said the firm plans to announce a key new hire shortly and it continues to look at acquisitions in the region, although no deals are imminent.

“We are in ongoing talks with multiple firms,” he said in a telephone interview with IDD on Tuesday.

Matthews said both the financial crisis and regulatory reform have created opportunity for Cantor to expand in Europe. “Most of the large financial institutions are clearly impaired" or will be reducing their capital commitments as a result of Basel III, he said

As it did in the U.S., Cantor plans to build a broad distribution platform in Europe that it can use to attract investment banking clients.

“The core competency of the firm is sales and trading; we want to be as strong in that area as possible, because it will allow us to layer banking on, as we do in the [United] States,” Matthews said. “With a greater distribution network, I can go to any board room and have a conversation about why our firm should be an underwriter.”

The firm now has around 200 employees in Europe, primarily in sales and trading, and it’s looking to double that number of professionals. However an acquisition could add more than 200 dealmakers to its ranks.

About 65% of the current Cantor European staff work in equities, and Matthews said additional hires will favor fixed-income in an effort to address this imbalance.

Cantor has already announced a number of hires this year, including a team of 11 fixed income traders led by Emmanuel Adroulidakis, who was previously head of asset backed and mortgage backed trading at Royal Bank of Scotland in London.

Stephen Kendall, a former managing director at Nomura International, also joined Cantor this year as head of its European equities team.