BB&T Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., has formed a subsidiary, BB&T Asset Management, that is to manage customized investment portfolios for wealthy people and businesses.

The subsidiary, which has $15 billion of assets under management, said it will court high-net-worth individuals as well as small and midsize businesses, major corporations, endowments, and other institutional investors throughout the South.

BB&T Asset Management, which is based in Raleigh, N.C., said it has also hired 16 portfolio managers, doubling its roster.

"We'd like to expand aggressively throughout our footprint," said Ray McCulloch, chairman of BB&T Asset Management. "We'd like to grow our assets to $20 billion, and then grow it another 20%." Most of the new unit's current managed assets, he said, come from the Carolinas.

BB&T Asset Management has put the new portfolio managers in several of BB&T Corp.'s 22 regional banking offices - including Charlotte, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Richmond, Va.; Westminster, Md.; Charleston, W. Va.; and Washington. It plans to assign portfolio managers to Atlanta, by next month, and to other regional offices later, Mr. McCulloch said.

"We're putting managers in the regional offices where our commercial bankers are because we get so many leads from those bankers," he said.

BB&T Corp. is also interested in buying a registered investment advisory firm within its investment markets, Mr. McCulloch said. "We're already looking for one. … It makes sense for us, because of our decentralized concept, to target registered investment advisers. We'd make an acquisition tomorrow if the opportunity were there."

The banking company is expanding its asset management unit as its insurance unit continues to gobble up agencies. BB&T Insurance Services now owns more than 50 agencies in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. And though the two units are separately run, Mr. McCulloch said, there are opportunities for cross-selling.

"We just announced what our plans are, and already an insurance agent called us with a lead," he said. "If an investment client has insurance needs, we'll send it their way."

BB&T Asset Management said in a press release that its investment strategies include value, growth, and international equity; taxable and tax-exempt fixed income; and various asset classes. It also offers asset allocation analysis, investment monitoring, and performance reporting.

BB&T Corp., with $56.7 billion of assets, is the nation's 18th-largest financial holding company. It operates 823 banking offices in the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia.

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