First Horizon, Pinnacle boost hiring in wake of BB&T-SunTrust deal

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Tennessee’s two largest banks — First Horizon in Memphis and Pinnacle Financial Partners in Nashville — have stepped up recruiting efforts tied to the pending merger of BB&T and SunTrust.

Executives from the $41.1 billion-asset First Horizon and the $25.6 billion-asset Pinnacle said on Tuesday that they’re setting plans in motion to recruit employees and clients who are worried about the biggest bank merger in a decade. First Horizon and PInnacle have significant overlap in the Southeastern markets where BB&T and SunTrust operate.

“We, of course, see big opportunities because” of the merger, BJ Losch, First Horizon's chief financial officer, said in an interview. “We’re treating it like a major initiative.”

First Horizon has named Dave Miller, its East Tennessee market president, to lead its BB&T-SunTrust project. Miller will focus on recruiting talent from BB&T and SunTrust and persuading the banks’ clients to move their business, Losch said.

Pinnacle, which had already set a target of hiring 65 commercial lenders and private bankers in Virginia and the Carolinas by 2022, believes disruption caused by the SunTrust-BB&T deal could create opportunities to meet that goal, CEO Terry Turner said during a Tuesday conference call

“We aim [to hire] high-quality relationship managers all year, every year,” Turner said. “To the extent that there's vulnerability created in the, say, BB&T-SunTrust transaction or other deals yet to come, my guess is that will advance our hiring.”

The hiring plans came on the heels of strategic acquisitions. Pinnacle bought BNC Bancorp in High Point, N.C., in June 2017, while First Horizon acquired Capital Bank Financial in Charlotte, N.C., in December 2017.

First Horizon and Pinnacle reported that improved results outside of traditional lending helped boost their first-quarter profit.

First Horizon’s net income rose 9% from a year earlier, to $99 million. A decline in net interest income was offset by higher fee income, largely from increased revenue from fixed-income trading at its investment bank.

Pinnacle's earnings rose 13%, to $94 million. The results reflected loan growth and higher deposit-related fees.

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Earnings M&A Recruiting Commercial lending First Horizon National First Tennessee Bank BB&T SunTrust