KBW has survived a number of hardships over the years, including the death of a third of its staff in the 9/11 attacks.

In the end, the 50-year-old New York investment banking firm best known as Keefe, Bruyette & Woods fell victim to rote ailments that have wrecked many of its bank customers — a lack of diversification and a crippling slowdown in business. Going public may have exacerbated its problems.

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