Ed Wehmer started Wintrust Financial Corp. (WTFC) two decades ago in the wake of the last big banking cycle. "We had no illusions of grandeur," he recalls. "We thought we'd have a couple of banks and live the life of George Bailey."

Back then, a host of local names-First National Bank of Chicago, Continental Bank, Harris Trust & Savings and LaSalle National Bank among them-dominated the Windy City's banking scene. Wehmer's investor clients in suburban Lake Forest appreciated having big, locally run banks nearby, but also wanted a more personal touch.

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