Ed Wehmer, the president and chief executive of Wintrust Financial (WTFC), has a message for equity analysts—who are you to tell me how to run my bank?

And he's not the only one. At issue is an unusually detailed and blunt research report from Sanford C. Bernstein that recommends regional and midsize banks close hundreds upon hundreds of branches nationwide. It puts a new spin on a lingering, often vague discussion about the future of branches—and has clearly struck a nerve.

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