SunTrust Banks Inc. plans to aggressively expand its unit providing private banking services to professional athletes and musicians.

Last week the Atlanta banking company announced the opening of a San Diego office and the hirings of Todd LaRocca and Billy Crafton and their investment teams. Thomas Carroll, a senior vice president at SunTrust Investment Services Inc. and the managing director of the sports and entertainment group, said the hirings let SunTrust significantly expand the scope of its sports and entertainment group both geographically and in terms of the athletes that it serves.

"This move makes us a player in pro sports," Carroll said. "We view this as an opportunity to take our platform and roll our other business into it and take it onto a national scale."

Carroll said SunTrust cross-sells mortgage, other lending, banking and insurance services to its athlete and musician clients.

LaRocca, formerly the head of the San Diego office of San Francisco-based CSI Capital Management, was hired to co-head SunTrust Investment's San Diego office. In the past 10 years, the former professional baseball player with the Baltimore Orioles had been a managing director and principal at CSI.

Crafton, formerly the principal of Martin Kelly Capital Management LLC in San Diego, also was hired to co-head the SunTrust San Diego office. He brings over a decade of experience as an investment adviser to professional athletes and high-net-worth people. He began his career at CSI Capital Management before founding the Martin Kelly firm in 2006.

Carroll said 60% to 65% of LaRocca and Crafton's client rosters are professional baseball players, including six who played in the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game. Their clients collectively have $600 million to $700 million in guaranteed contracts, he said.

SunTrust started its entertainment group in Nashville in 1988, and it focused primarily on country music artists. For the next 15 years, Carroll said, the business evolved as the unit added offices in Atlanta and Miami to offer private banking services to musicians in those areas.

In 2004, SunTrust began targeting private banking services to drivers and owners through motorsports private banking group offices in Charlotte and Daytona Beach, Fla. In March 2006, it combined the sports and entertainment private banking practices to create a sports and entertainment specialty group.

Last year, 54 of the 101 Nascar races were won by drivers that are SunTrust clients, Carroll said.

"We have developed strong share with those businesses, and San Diego really represents the next frontier," he said. "We have an opportunity now to become a big player with professional baseball, football, hockey and basketball players."

During the next 12 months, SunTrust hopes to establish offices for the sports and entertainment group in Los Angeles and, "perhaps," in Washington and New York, Carroll said.

SunTrust would not say how large its sports and entertainment group is. Carroll said the business has increased its assets under management by "double digits" in the past year and expects even stronger growth in the next three to five years.

SunTrust wants to continue expanding the business nationally but does not necessarily need to add offices to do so, Carroll said. "We help manage relationships that can be geographically challenging. We support clients, and we will fly to them. We don't need offices to do what we need to do."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.