Despite more than tripling their public finance team over the past two years, Birmingham, Ala.-based Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. doesn't aspire to be a big national firm.

"We like to pride ourselves on being a regional firm with a national approach," said B. Hanson Slaughter, who heads public finance group. "I don't want to be a big cumbersome investment bank. I want to have the right bankers in the right places, but I want to always have the flexibility that we have at our current size, and that just means managing your growth very carefully."

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