Merrill Lynch & Co. and Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. were the top bank merger advisers in 1997.

Merrill, whose financial institutions group is headed by Herbert A. Lurie, topped all Wall Street's investment bulge-bracket firms by advising on $45.5 billion worth of deals. That marked a drastic jump from a year earlier, when the firm ranked sixth and advised on only $6.4 billion, according to Sheshunoff Information Services.

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