SunTrust Banks Inc. will ask the Federal Reserve within 30 days to 60 days for permission to underwrite corporate debt and equity, according to a senior executive.

The Atlanta-based banking company expects to be granted so-called Tier 2 powers sometime in the first quarter, said R. Charles Shufeldt, president and chief executive officer of SunTrust Capital Markets, its section 20 investment banking unit.

"If our goal is to be one of (our clients') lead banks and to be one of their trusted financial advisers, then we've got to have the full product capability," Mr. Shufeldt said.

SunTrust Capital Markets already has most of the staff and infrastructure it will need to underwrite corporate debt, said Mr. Shufeldt, thanks to its commercial paper and municipal debt underwriting capabilities.

But it may look to buy a securities firm based in the Southeast to quickly add equity underwriting expertise, Mr. Shufeldt said.

Twenty-four of the 44 bank section 20 subsidiaries have already obtained equity powers, and several others including CoreStates Financial Corp., PNC Financial Corp., and Crestar Financial Corp. have either applied for them or announced plans to do so.

SunTrust's move to obtain Tier 2 powers was prompted in part by the Fed's ruling late last month removing most of the remaining regulatory firewalls between commercial banks and their securities affiliates, said Mr. Shufeldt.

"I was in no hurry to make the Tier 2 application under the old firewalls, because the extra work that they were going to force us to go through in the infrastructure review was, in my opinion, unnecessary and a real deterrent," said Mr. Shufeldt.

SunTrust Capital Markets has about 200 professionals and support staff members, but will probably add 150 employees by the end of 1998, said Mr. Shufeldt. SunTrust expects the section 20 unit to generate approximately $30 million in sales revenue this year.

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