Providence, R.I.-based Citizens Financial Group Inc. is expanding its specialized lending division.

The $16.8 billion-asset bank holding company said last week it had formed a new corporate loan syndications group and an asset-based lending group.

The corporate loan syndication group will focus on buying and selling commercial loans and commercial real estate loans nationally, in addition to investing in commercial mortgage-backed securities.

Edward O. "Ned" Handy 3d, a senior vice president in commercial real estate lending, will lead the effort.

The new group, to be called Citizens Capital, will participate in national syndications for both real estate and commercial and industrial loans. The loans will range in size from $5 million to $25 million, the bank said. The group will eventually include five lenders.

"We're going to actively seek syndications and participations in order to form new relationships with developers," Mr. Handy said.

The unit will also look to develop "meaningful relationships with other lenders to enable us to do a better job in portfolio management," Mr. Handy added.

"Hopefully it leads to (doing) more deals with our existing customer base and enables us to do a better job managing our total exposure limits," he said.

Citizens manages a $1.9 billion portfolio of commercial mortgages.

Mr. Handy, who joined Citizens in 1995, spent the five previous years working out distressed real estate loans in the managed assets division of Fleet Financial Group. From 1987 to 1990, he worked in commercial real estate lending there.

Citizens has also tapped Daniel J. Landers, to head its new asset-based lending unit, Citizens Business Credit Corp., which is based in Boston.

Under Mr. Landers' command, Citizens will pursue opportunities to provide credit for leveraged companies.

From 1991 to 1998, Mr. Landers was a managing director of asset-based lending at BTM Capital, a unit of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

As part of its new asset-based lending effort, Citizens has opened up a Pittsburgh office to service companies there. The new location will be run by Ron Donatelli.

Both the asset-based lending unit and the corporate loan syndications group will report to vice chairman Steve Steinour. Mr. Steinour also oversees the bank's equipment finance unit, Citizens Leasing Corp.; its Dealer Financial Services group; and its mezzanine and venture capital financing division.

Citizens is jointly owned by Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Ireland.

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