State Bank Financial in Atlanta has tapped one of its directors to lead its banking unit.

The $2.6 billion-asset State Bank said in a press release Thursday that J. Thomas Wiley will become chief executive at State Bank and Trust on Jan. 1. Wiley, a founding shareholder of the company, is already a member of its board.

Wiley will succeed Joe Evans, who will remain chairman and CEO of the company.

"Over the course of his distinguished banking career and our 32-year working relationship, Tom Wiley has consistently demonstrated excellence as a leader and a banker of the highest integrity," Evans said in the release.

Wiley joined State Bank in early 2013, becoming vice chairman and president. He resigned as chief executive of Coastal Bankshares in Savannah, Ga., to take the posts at State Bank, though he remained Coastal's will remain nonexecutive chairman.

From 2002 to 2006, Wiley was vice chairman of Flag Financial and president and CEO of Flag Bank, where he worked with Evans and others from State Bank. Flag sold itself to Royal Bank of Canada's RBC Bank in late 2006. RBC's operations were later sold to PNC Financial Group.

Kevin Fitzsimmons, an analyst at Hovde Group, wrote in a note to clients that he doubts the move is tied to succession planning because Evans and Wiley are roughly the same age.

"However, we think State Bank Financial views the move as serving to elevate some of the next generation of leaders in the reporting structure," Fitzsimmons added. "We think the main purpose of the move is to free up … Evans to focus more externally, namely on the deployment of [the company's] excess capital."

State Financial, which acquired Atlanta Bancorp. on Oct. 1, recently named Sheila Ray, a former executive of the acquired institution, as its chief financial officer. The company also agreed to buy Georgia-Carolina Bancshares in Augusta, Ga., in June, for $82 million.

Paul Davis contributed to this report.

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