Before long, as southeastern banks continue to develop their capital markets capabilities, some street in North Carolina or Georgia will be renamed Wall Street South.
In another example of commercial banks bolstering their investment banking powers, SunTrust Capital Markets recently received approval from the Federal Reserve to engage in several additional investment banking businesses.
Analysts said this latest move by the unit of Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. reflects the growing interest among the region's banks in providing a broader array of services, even as they compete across various business lines to retain corporate customers.
First Union Corp., NationsBank Corp., and Wachovia Corp. have made major forays into the capital markets business in the last year.
The new powers granted to SunTrust include the ability to act as agent or principal in leasing transactions, the ability to act as arranger and adviser on swaps transactions, and the ability to underwrite unrated debt issues for municipalities.
While the most recent powers represent relatively small steps for the bank, they reflect a continued effort among regional banks to develop full- service banking operations.
The investment banking subsidiary is "an integral part of our corporate banking strategy and our public finance strategy," said R. Charles Shufeldt, the president and chief executive of SunTrust Capital Markets.
"We'll continue to grow the investment banking business, and we're looking for ways to make it more active in building corporate relationships," said Mr. Shufeldt.
He said the ability to underwrite unrated revenue bonds is the most significant new power the bank received.
Over the course of the next year, the bank intends to get the infrastructure in place to apply for additional powers, including equity underwriting.
"We're going through a systems conversion that we'll complete by the middle of next year," said Mr. Shufeldt.
While the bank does not plan to hire any new talent as a result of its new capabilities, Mr. Shufeldt said that over the next three to six months, it does plan to hire approximately 20 people.
Some see the development of capital markets businesses by both Wachovia Corp. and SunTrust as somewhat defensive moves.
"They have to provide these services," said Anthony R. Davis, a bank analyst at Dean Witter Reynolds.
"NationsBank and First Union are putting intense pressure on them to beef up their (capital markets) efforts," he said.
Others, however, said that it was a natural extension of the bank's current business.
"It's a growing area of the bank, and one that they feel they need to service their commercial banking customers," said Dennis Shea, a bank analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co.
Mr. Shea said although he expects the area to provide some profits, he doesn't think the capital markets group will be as important to SunTrust as it is for First Union or NationsBank.
However, he said that the bank has an important history in the investment banking field.
SunTrust brought the Coca Cola Co. public in 1919, before the Depression-era Glass-Steagall laws restricted those activities, and to this day holds a large stake in the soft drink company.