CHICAGO - William Blair & Co.'s public finance group is branching out from its deep Chicago roots to California with the hiring of two veteran public finance bankers, as the firm, like other regional broker-dealers, seeks to capitalize on market turmoil and cuts at Wall Street competitors.

The firm last month hired Esther A. Berg and Mike L. Placencia as directors in its San Francisco office, said Tom Lanctot, a principal at the firm and head of its public finance group. Although it had an existing office in San Francisco, it did not previously have bankers on the ground there.

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