Investment banker Jason R. Hach has joined Sandler O'Neill following four years at its archrival Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

As a managing director, Hach and will provide strategic and financial advice to depository institutions, Sandler said in a press release on Wednesday.

His hiring is perhaps the most high-profile investment banking and advisory grab Sandler has made following KBW's acquisition by Stifel Financial in February 2013. Industry observers have predicted that there could be more personnel changes once some KBW bankers' non-compete and non-solicitation agreements with Stifel begin to expire. KBW said through a spokesman that it does not comment on personnel matters.

As a principal in investment banking at KBW, Hach's recent deals included representing Guernsey Bancorp, Insight Bank and First Bexley Bank in their separate sales to First Financial Bancorp in Cincinnati. The deals were all part of a push by First Financial to expand in the Columbus, Ohio market.

In 2013, he also helped manage Pittsburgh-based TriState Capital Holdings' $75 million initial public offering. And in 2012, he advised RBS Citizens Financial in its sale of 56 branches in New York to People's United Financial in Bridgeport, Conn.

"Facing significant challenges in the current environment, banks need an advisor that understands their business and helps them build real, long-term value," said Brian R. Sterling, a principal and co-head of investment banking at Sandler, in a press release.

Hach "has proven that he is more than up to the challenge and can uphold Sandler O'Neill's commitment to client service."

Sandler and KBW are fierce competitors in the bank M&A space with the two often leading the league tables.

In the first half of the year, Sandler was the biggest deal maker by volume, with 28 deals, two ahead of KBW, according to data from SNL Financial.

Conversely, KBW was the biggest deal maker in the first half of the year by value, with $3.25 billion in transactions, $250 million more than Sandler.

Hach's hiring "is a clear win for our clients," said William Hickey, principal and co-head of investment banking, in a press release. Hach said he is pleased to join Sandler.

"I hope to bring additional insight and relationships and strengthen Sandler's already powerful bank and thrift advisory franchise," he said in the release.

Prior to KBW, Hach was served as a director of depository investment banking at Janney Montgomery Scott. He also worked at National City Corp. and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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