Sandler O'Neill & Partners, which has covered middle-market financial institutions, is expanding its research to include the biggest banks with the hiring of Kate Blecher, a former Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. executive.

"Our investors had asked us to broaden our scope to not only give them the investment ideas they were used to seeing, but they would also like to see our opinion on the more actively traded companies," said Fred Price, a principal in the New York firm. "Kate is an extremely well-respected and well-known analyst on larger-cap names and will immediately give us recognition."

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