Regions to buy health care asset management firm

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Regions Financial has agreed to buy a boutique firm that manages endowments for health care organizations. The deal is part of an effort by Regions to delve into specialties in various industry sectors.

The $129 billion-asset Regions did not say how much it would pay for Highland Associates, which like the bank is based in Birmingham, Ala. Highland has $26 billion in assets under management on behalf of not-for-profit health care endowments and foundations.

“The addition of Highland Associates complements our existing asset management and health care banking practice areas and will enable us to provide additional capabilities to meet client needs while also diversifying our business,” Regions CEO John Turner said in a release Friday.

Although Turner recently said Regions was not interested in large bank deals, he also said that Regions wants to add more specialists in select industries and named health care as a sector of interest. Turner cited technology, defense and energy as potential industry sectors where Regions could add expertise, too.

The health care sector has garnered interest from other banks. KeyCorp in Cleveland and Fifth Third Bancorp in Cincinnati have acquired investment bank boutiques focused on that sector in recent years.

In addition to asset management, Highland provides investment consulting and serves as a fiduciary to pension and 401(k) retirement plans. Charles Perry, one of Highland’s co-founders, is chairman of the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation. Highland will keep its name and operate as a unit of Regions Wealth Management Group.

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