When it comes to high-grade bonds, NationsBank's loss is SunTrust's gain.

The Atlanta-based bank has picked up several bond salespeople from NationsBanc Capital Markets Inc., which is believed to be de-emphasizing the investment-grade fixed-income business. SunTrust plans to staff four new sales offices with its new hires, including one in NationsBank's hometown of Charlotte, N.C.

T.A. "Buddy" Dixon, a 28-year veteran of NationsBank, will head the new Charlotte office for SunTrust Capital Markets Inc., along with J. Wade Martin, also from NationsBank. The new office will focus on selling bonds and other investment services to financial institutions and other corporate and institutional clients.

"It appears that NationsBank has begun to de-emphasize that particular client base," said R. Charles Shufeldt, president of SunTrust Capital Markets. "We're committed to the financial institution business. We see them as an integral part of our business strategy, and it's a good match, with them (NationsBank) getting out and us getting in."

"Buddy does more business with this segment of this market than practically anyone else," Mr. Shufeldt continued. "For us, it's an attractive opportunity to leverage our strengths into a market where, frankly, if he was in there still working for NationsBank, we'd have a hell of a time dislodging him."

Last week, John Griff, a vice chairman of NationsBanc Capital Markets and one of the founders of its fixed-income group, resigned. His departure followed by a week the defection of three other NationsBanc high-grade bond executives to First Union Corp. market sources said.

The moves were seen as a sign of NationsBank's increasing emphasis on other areas of fixed income, including the more profitable high-yield business.

SunTrust has snared NationsBank talent before. Late last year, it hired three NationsBanc Capital Markets staffers for its new Pittsburgh office when NationsBank shut down its sales office there.

The three staffers who moved from NationsBank to SunTrust are John Stevens, Kathleen Maseth, and Michael McNerny. The group was "doing exactly the same kind of business that we were doing in our capital markets group, but with a different customer base, so we were able to bring them on board," said Mr. Shufeldt.

SunTrust has also recently opened fixed-income sales offices in New York and Richmond, Va. According to SunTrust, the capital markets unit will generate about $30 million in sales revenue this year.

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