A Florida investment house has formed a banking division to cover and advise the state's 300 community banks and thrifts.

Sterling Financial Investment Group Inc. of Boca Raton has added equity research, merger and acquisition counsel, and capital raising services for small banks and thrifts. Its chief executive, Charles Patrick Garcia, said he hopes to fill what he sees as a void of local advisers.

Sterling's manager of equity research for the banking group will be Deborah Beylus, formerly an analyst with JW Genesis Capital Markets, also of Boca Raton.

Kevin Reevey, who has worked for Merrill Lynch & Co. and Advest Inc., will manage Sterling's investment banking operations.

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