BMO Harris Bank in Chicago has tapped a former SunTrust Banks (STI) executive to help steer its growth in the car-dealer lending business.

The $95 billion-asset unit of BMO Financial Group of Toronto said Wednesday that it has launched a dealership finance operation in northern Virginia and that it has hired Jeff Carmines to head it. Carmines has spent the last dozen years managing SunTrust's dealership finance operation in the Washington, D.C., area and he will have similar responsibilities at BMO Harris. In all, Carmines has spent 24 of his 28 years in banking lending to car dealers.

"Jeff brings to his new role an optimal combination of experience, expertise and local market knowledge," said Ghram Debes, the bank's head of dealership finance.

The D.C. area is a new market for BMO Harris' dealership finance team. Its other offices are in the Midwest and Florida. In a news release, the company said it plans to continue expanding the business into new markets.

Other regional banks, including Huntington Bancshares (HBAN) in Columbus, Ohio, and First Niagara Financial Group (FNFG) of Buffalo, have also been expanding auto lending operations outside of their footprints in an effort to capture more market share.

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