First Union Corp. said it had hired two executives from Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. to beef up its public finance department.

Douglas E. Carter, who has been Alex. Brown's managing director of public finance, will take over as managing director of First Union's public finance area for the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee in mid-July.

Mr. Carter's hiring is actually a homecoming. He organized and managed First Union's public finance business in the late 1980s, before leaving for Alex. Brown in 1990.

In his new job, Mr. Carter will work with First Union's commercial bankers to bring a variety of products to public sector clients.

Working with Mr. Carter will be Joseph A. Niggel, a vice president in the public finance department. Mr. Niggel, who joined First Union last week, was in charge of Alex. Brown's regional office in Charlotte, N.C. He will develop new business and expand existing relationships with state and local issuers.

Both hirings follow Alex. Brown's exit from the public finance business in May, in anticipation of its acquisition by Bankers Trust New York Corp. in the fourth quarter.

"Doug and Joe are tremendous additions to our team," said Sandy Curlett, president of First Union Capital Market Corp., which includes the public finance unit. "They bring many years of experience and know issuers throughout the region."

The hirings came as Charlotte-based First Union, the country's sixth- largest banking company, attempts to grow its public finance area as part of a strategy to boost fee revenue.

Its underwriting and advisory services to tax-exempt clients are part of an investment banking arsenal aimed at pushing fee income to 40% of total revenues by 2000, First Union said.

In the first quarter, revenue from the capital markets group was $149 million, up 67% from the first quarter of 1996.

In addition to the Alex. Brown hirings, First Union hired Craig Hunter as managing director of the company's public finance business in Florida. Mr. Hunter, who joined First Union in March, was formerly the managing director of public finance at William R. Hough & Co., a Florida-based municipal securities firm.

The company is still recruiting additional senior public finance investment bankers to manage growth efforts throughout the franchise.

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