Last month, lawn care. This month, home furnishings.

In its latest effort to broaden its offerings, Southern National Corp. agreed last week to buy Phillips Factors Corp., an account receivables manager with units specializing in home furnishings companies and temporary staffing businesses.

The deal follows the Winston-Salem, N.C., bank's announced acquisition last month of a provider of financing for lawn care equipment.

The purchases are examples of Southern National's "strategy of trying to ferret out niches," said Anthony R. Davis, a senior vice president with Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. "They need that in the competitive environment they're in."

Officials at the $21.2 billion-asset bank said the Phillips acquisition would be a stock deal, but they declined to disclose its value. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter, bank officials said.

High Point, N.C.-based Phillips Factors was founded in 1979 to buy and manage account receivables primarily in the furniture, textiles, and home furnishings industries in the Southeast.

In 1989, the company began providing factoring and payroll processing services to temporary-staffing business nationwide.

Southern National said it intends to let Phillips Factors operate autonomously, but the company's owner and chairman, S. Davis Phillips, will step down.

"We see factoring as a natural extension of our existing business," said Burney S. Warren 3d, executive vice president, acquisitions and venture capital, at Southern National.

The bank continues to hunt for acquisitions and is likely to complete "one or two more deals this year," Mr. Warren said.

Southern National is keen on adding a property and casualty insurance agency to its already extensive insurance business, said Mr. Warren.

It has acquired more than 20 independent insurance agencies since 1990 and is now the largest independent insurance agency in North Carolina.

As it shops for small businesses to buy, Southern National is preparing to acquire $4 billion-asset United Carolina Bancshares.

That deal is expected to close by midyear.

Southern National is the parent of Branch Banking & Trust Co. and operates 419 offices in the Carolinas and Virginia under the BB&T name.

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