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Raising money for companies that claw stuff out of the earth and haul it halfway around the globe doesn’t sound terribly glamorous.

But that’s the job Kim Fennebresque has just taken on as chairman of New York’s Dahlman Rose investment boutique

And Fennebresque (right), who ran Cowen & Co.  for a decade after stints at Lazard and First Boston, says there is nowhere he’d rather be.



Fennebresque, then CEO of Cowen &Co., at a U.S. Coast Guard compound in 2006 (photo: Cherie A. Thurlby, Defense Dept.)

“There is no imaginable scenario in which the demand for commodities and natural resources diminishes,” Fennebresque said in a phone interview Wednesday, following the announcement that he will join the six-year-old investment bank. “We are at the nexus of the world’s growth trends and we think it’s going to be a happy place for a long time.”

Dahlman started in 2004 as a six-man operation raising money for shipping companies and made its first score in 2005 when it helped underwrite the initial public offering of dry bulk shipper DryShips .

Since then, the company says it has grown at a 40% annual clip, expanding its staff to more than 100 people and taking on new niches such as mining and oil production. Recent deals include the IPOs of phosphate miner Stonegate Agricom and steel roller Metals USA (MUSA), and follow-on deals for fertilizer giant CF Industries and coal miner Massey .

Dahlman now bills itself as “the investment bank for the natural resources economy” and says it has raised some $12 billion for clients. Despite the ups and downs — shippers like DryShips have been in the doldrums since the global economic boom ended in 2007, and Massey has been hammered by safety questions following a deadly mine fire — Fennebresque says the global growth opportunity is robust.

“No matter what happens in China or India, demand for resources is going to keep accelerating,” he said. “There’s no bubble that’s going to change that.”

Fennebresque, who intends to play a strategic rather than managerial role, says Dahlman’s partnership structure is appealing to him. It reminds him of his time at Lazard  and recalls the days in which investment banks weren’t simply trading machines.

That mindset has obviously been lost by some Wall Streeters in recent years, he says — though he stresses that he doesn’t see the current “kerfuffle” over inflated pay and dubious business practices having much effect on his new firm.

“America isn’t happy, because Wall Street forgot it is a service business,” Fennebresque said. “The big thing for us is we’re a partnership, and we’re going to put the client first.”