Jean-Luc Servat, the director of Alex. Brown's new West Coast financial institutions office, is bullish on the potential for mergers among midsize banks in the region.

"Four or five years ago we all concluded the middle market had been merged out of existence, but in the last four years, there has been a complete replenishment of that account base," said Mr. Servat, the former head of Merrill Lynch's San Francisco investment banking offices.

Smaller banks have expanded to become midsize, and the credit problems that might have complicated mergers have been corrected, he said.

While middle-tier banks will be his primary focus at Alex. Brown, he advised some of the region's larger banks during his tenure at Merrill Lynch, including Puget Sound Bancorp, Pacific First Bank, and First Hawaiian Inc.

Mr. Servat, 38, ran Merrill Lynch's West Coast financial institutions office in San Francisco from 1985 to 1990, when he assumed responsibility for the firm's general investment banking office. Since 1992, he has directed Merrill Lynch's Hong Kong investment banking office.

Mr. Servat has also worked for Dean Witter Reynolds and Kidder, Peabody & Co. on the West Coast and in New York.

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