• Georgia's largest lender will also add to real estate services
  • Wholesale unit earlier expanded to Chicago and San Francisco

SunTrust Banks Inc., Georgia’s largest lender, said its wholesale-banking business will hire as many as 200 people over the next four years as it seeks to increase mergers-and-acquisition services for mid-size companies.

Thirty-six percent of firms with annual revenue of $10 million to $150 million are interested in expanding through deals, up from 25 percent in 2015, according to a SunTrust survey scheduled for release Wednesday. In addition to adding more talent to its M&A-advisory business, SunTrust also plans to hire more bankers with specific industry expertise, said Mark Chancy, who runs the Atlanta-based firm’s wholesale division. The lender also plans to beef up services for commercial real estate clients, he said.

"Merger-and-acquisition advisory is probably the lead product where we have been investing in talent, and I see us continue to expand in that area over the next several years," Chancy said in a telephone interview Tuesday. The unit’s 4,000 employees could increase by as much as 5 percent by 2020, he said.

The wholesale unit has expanded in recent years to Chicago, New York, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston. U.S. regional banks have been able to lure executives from global rivals with promises of more workplace autonomy, less bureaucracy and a better work-life balance.

In February, SunTrust started a payments and financial technology specialty group led by Eric Brewer, former head of treasury and payment solutions. The bank also has hired for coverage of the retail, biotechnology, ports and logistics and health-care industries, Chancy said. The wholesale unit posted net income of $954 million in 2015, a 9 percent increase from a year earlier, according to a statement.

A total of 508 small and mid-size businesses participated in the survey, SunTrust said.

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