Synovus Financial Corp. of Columbus, Ga., has introduced a stock option plan aimed at motivating employees at every level of the organization.

Each of the company's 8,400 employees has been awarded options for 150 shares of stock. The options are exercisable after three years, or earlier if the stock price doubles.

In pushing stock options down the ranks, Synovus, which has $9.4 billion of assets, joins a growing collection of larger banking companies, including Chase Manhattan Corp., NationsBank Corp., and BankBoston Corp. The stated goal of these programs is to boost performance while retaining valued employees.

Synovus chairman James H. Blanchard characterized the plan as a "thank you" to employees as well as a "show of confidence in their abilities to lead this company into the future."

Elizabeth R. James, president of Synovus Services Corp., the company's human resources subsidiary, said the stock option program differs from other incentive plans because it is offered to every employee. Even part- timers are included, as are those who logged their first day on the job when the option program was announced June 2.

"We want to do the right thing by our employees so they'll serve our customers better," Ms. James said.

The options are to buy shares at $22 in June 2001-or before that if the market price doubles. Synovus was trading midday Wednesday at $22.25, about double its September 1996 price.

Kathryn Bissette, an analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc., Atlanta, said Synovus' effort came as many others in the industry are offering a range of employee rewards and incentives.

"To be in line with the other companies and to remain competitive, companies have to offer packages like this," she said.

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