Union Planters Corp. focuses its commercial lending on businesses with fewer than 500 employees, so it jumped on the opportunity this year to buy a national payroll processing and human resources firm that serves such businesses.

By purchasing Strategic Outsourcing Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., for $45.9 million, Union Planters said it strengthened its relationships with small-business customers and its ability to it attract new ones, said Alan Kennebeck, executive vice president in charge of retail services for the $34.2 billion-asset Memphis banking company.

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