Sandler O’Neill Hires Managing Director, Investment Banking Group

New York - March 8, 2011 - Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., announced today that Kathleen Smythe has joined the firm as Managing Director in its Investment Banking Group.

Ms. Smythe is based in the firm's San Francisco office and reports to William F. Hickey and Brian R. Sterling, Principals and Co-Heads of Sandler O'Neill's Investment Banking Group.

She has served as senior banker to a wide range of financial services clients, and has completed hundreds of M&A transactions and capital raises for financial institutions nationwide. In her role at Sandler O'Neill, Ms. Smythe will focus on providing strategic advice to financial institutions in connection with mergers and acquisitions and capital financings.

'We continue to add high quality professionals to our investment banking team and Kathy bolsters our deep and talented roster', said Sterling and Hickey. 'With her significant investment banking experience, Kathy will enhance the comprehensive advisory services that Sandler O'Neill brings to clients'.

'Kathy is a seasoned advisor to financial institutions with established relationships on the West Coast', said Murray G. Bodine, a Principal and Head of Sandler O'Neill's West Coast investment banking operations. 'She thoroughly understands the region and the issues distinct to West Coast financial institutions. We are pleased to welcome Kathy and look forward to leveraging her experience on behalf of our clients'.

'Sandler O'Neill is well-known for its superior client service and has a reputation for providing sound advice', said Smythe. 'I look forward to working closely with my new colleagues to benefit the firm's clients and support the Investment Banking Group'.

Ms. Smythe has represented banks, S&Ls, commercial lenders, consumer finance, REITs and mortgage companies. Previously, Ms. Smythe served as Managing Director, Co-Head of West Coast Investment Banking at Keefe Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Prior to that she served as Managing Director, Head of Commercial Banking for Putnam Lovell Securities. From 1986 - 2000, she served as Managing Director and then as Partner for Banc of America Securities following its acquisition of Montgomery Securities.

She began her career as an Associate, Corporate Finance for Van Kasper & Company.

Ms. Smythe received her B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, M.A. from New York University and M.I.M. in International Management from the American Graduate School of International Management.

Sandler O'Neill is one of the most active investment banks in merger advisory and capital raising for financial institutions. Since 2009, the firm has advised on 55 financial services merger transactions worth an aggregate of $13.2 billion.

During that same period, Sandler O'Neill managed 89 public equity offerings that raised approximately $44.8 billion.

About Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P.

Founded in 1988, Sandler O'Neill + Partners is a full-service investment banking firm dedicated to providing comprehensive, innovative advisory and transaction execution services to the financial industry.

The firm specializes in strategic business planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, mutual-to-stock conversions, investment portfolio and interest rate risk management, fixed income securities transactions and mortgage finance restructurings.

Sandler O'Neill also is a market maker in hundreds of financial stocks and publishes equity and fixed income research focused on selected banks, thrifts and insurance companies, credit card companies, investment banks, asset managers, specialty finance companies, e-finance companies, real estate investment trusts and transaction execution companies.

Additional information about Sandler O'Neill can be found on the firm's website at www.sandleroneill.com

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