When Tim Clifford first worked up his business plan for a team that would finance mergers and acquisitions of smaller companies, he didn't think of shopping the idea to a regional bank, much less one in New York that was founded by a labor union in the 1920s.

Headquartered near Manhattan's once-bustling garment district on Seventh Avenue, Amalgamated Bank wants to stake money for mergers and buyouts of small and midmarket companies. This week it helped finance a private-equity firm's investment in a medical device company.

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