Park Sterling Corp. (PSTB) in Charlotte, N.C., is entering the Virginia market.

The $2 billion-asset company is moving the headquarters of its mortgage banking and wealth management businesses to the Greater Richmond area, according to a Friday press release. Park Sterling is also launching a commercial banking team in the region.

The company will use its Richmond-area loan production office to conduct business while it searches for a permanent location and seeks regulatory approval to provide full banking services, according to the release.

Park Sterling's push into Virginia has been a long time coming, according to Chief Executive Jim Cherry.

Since raising $150 million in capital in 2010, the company's aim has been to "build a regional community bank by building in Virginia," Cherry says. "A significant number of executives and members of the board have very deep roots in Virginia … We plan to build a significant presence here over time."

To that end, Park Sterling recruited two Richmond-area bankers to the newly created positions of head of wealth management and head of mortgage banking.

Heading the wealth management group is Michael Williams, who most recently served as director of wealth management at StellarOne Bank in Charlottesville, Va. He has also held management positions with Andersen Consulting, Wachovia Bank and First Market Bank. In his new role, Williams will head Park Sterling's investment management, trust, retail brokerage and private banking services and build those businesses in Virginia.

The new head of Park Sterling's mortgage banking division is Steve Farbstein, who was most recently the director of mortgage banking at StellarOne. Farbstein has held senior positions at Union Mortgage Group, CIT Group and Citicorp Mortgage.

Park Sterling's new Richmond-area commercial banking team will also be made up of former StellarOne employees. Rob Leitch, Tom Zachry and Bobby Cowgill "are well known to the Park Sterling management team and position our company to compete in the attractive Central Virginia market," Cherry said in the release.

The fact that Park Sterling draws its new Virginia hires from StellarOne is a coincidence, according to Cherry. "I've known many of these individuals for a long time," he says, noting that he and Williams worked for Wachovia Corp. and that he knew Leitch and Zachry during their time at SunTrust Banks (STI).

While Park Sterling is eager to expand in Virginia, the company still sees opportunities for growth in its home state.

"We're pursuing a two-pronged strategy," Cherry says. "One is to open de novo offices and build organically in higher-growth markets" like Richmond and Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington in North Carolina.

Park Sterling is also on the lookout for bank acquisitions. "We're looking for merger partners in Virginia, as we have been," Cherry says. The company doubled in asset size twice in the past three years with its acquisitions of Community Capital Corp. in Greenwood, S.C., and Citizens South Banking Corp. in Gastonia, N.C.

"We're looking for banks that want to pursue the same future as we do and think we can do that together," Cherry says. "It just happens that this opportunity came up before a merger did."

Park Sterling has 43 branches in the Carolinas and North Georgia.

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