Synovus Financial Corp. has hired a Georgia bank consultant as "profit enhancement director."

The $9 billion-asset company said Monday that it had hired Daniel R. Sappington, 42, to oversee a team of bankers who work as in-house consultants at Synovus helping to improve profitability at each of the company's 34 affiliate banks.

"We try to look under every leaf we can find to see if there is something there we can work with," Mr. Sappington said in an interview. "We're constantly working on many different areas.

Mr. Sappington succeeds Brick Luke, who became senior vice president of Synovus Securities.

Synovus' autonomous structure means that each of its affiliate bank, which range from about $50 million to about $2 billion of assets, approach issues such as pricing, staffing, and marketing differently to suit market conditions.

The profit enhancement group works to ensure that each bank is trying to boost revenue growth and minimize expenses, said Mr. Sappington.

The four-member team also works on companywide efforts like the year- 2000 project and leveraging vendor relationships, he said.

Designating a "profit enhancement director" is not a common industry practice, analysts said, but it is not unusual for a banking company to call upon its chief financial officer or another executive to play that role and work with consultants on specific projects.

At Columbus, Ga.-based Synovus, however, dedicating an executive to the task seems to be paying off.

Net income growth has averaged 22.3% in the past 10 years, and return on assets rose to 1.8% in the second quarter, results that position Synovus among the country's top-performing banking companies.

"There is a difference between talking about it and executing it," said John A. Pandtle, an analyst with Robinson-Humphrey Co. "They have consistently been above peers, and over the last few years they have ratcheted up the profitability of the bank side."

Mr. Sappington has nearly 20 years of working in or close to the banking industry. He most recently ran a one-man bank consulting firm, Premier Bank Consulting, from Marietta, Ga.; before that he worked for the Short Hills, N.J.-based Earnings Performance Group. He also did a stint with the former Wells Fargo Armored Services Corp.

Most of his early career was spent in South Carolina with NCNB, a NationsBank predecessor.

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