Regions Financial growing energy practice in Charlotte

07/04/2014 6:21 PM

07/04/2014 6:22 PM

Brian Tate sees Charlotte, with its major utility and cluster of renewable energy firms, as an ideal place to run an energy and natural resources banking group.

That’s why he left Wells Fargo Securities and began building a new team this week at Regions Financial, which has a growing investment banking and capital markets presence in the city.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions, a mid-sized regional bank, reminds Tate of First Union, the Wells Fargo predecessor he joined in 1996 from Chase Manhattan Bank. Led by CEO Ed Crutchfield, First Union was aggressively building its own securities arm at the time.

“It was an exciting opportunity to go back to a rapidly growing organization like First Union,” Tate, 45, said.

Tate has already hired six others here and plans to add up to 10 more people in coming months. Altogether, his energy and natural resources group now has about 30 people in Charlotte, Houston and Jackson, Miss.

The group aims to work with a broad swath of companies in the energy and natural resources sector, from firms that drill for oil to utilities that deliver power to customers. Regions can provide loans and help customers issue debt, among other services.

Regions has been in the energy business for more than 30 years, but in recent years it’s been ramping up the practice, Tate said. The bank has historically been focused on customers in exploration, production and pipeline businesses, but is now looking to expand its reach in other energy sectors such as utilities and renewable energy.

Regions has about $6.5 billion in loans with energy and natural resources companies, but wants to increase that balance, Tate said.

One of the hot areas, of course, is the domestic oil boom in states such as North Dakota, Tate said. Regions has some customers in the coal industry, which has been under increasing fire from environmental groups, but it’s a small slice of the bank’s business, he said.

Like a number of other banks, Regions, which has retail branches and commercial bankers here, has chosen Charlotte as a growth spot for its investment banking and capital markets businesses, plucking employees from Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

The bank has about 20 people here in its specialized industries group, which focuses on companies in key business sectors, such as energy. It also has a staff of six underwriters in Charlotte who work with this group, with plans to more than double that number by year’s end.

In addition, Regions has about a half dozen people in Charlotte who work in capital markets. In April, the bank named a Charlotte-based banker, Terry Katon, to run that unit, which is headquartered in Atlanta.

“Our overall message,” Tate said, “is Regions is growing, Regions is building in Charlotte aggressively.”

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