Stifel Financial (SF) surprised Wall Street last week with its $575 million agreement to buy KBW (KBW).

Stifel has been on an upswing. Last week it posted third-quarter income of $37.7 million, 69% higher than a year earlier. New hires and preparations for an anticipated wave of bank mergers have fueled its investment banking arm, which is having its best bank mergers and acquisitions results since 2007.

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