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BankUnited moving into Atlanta to scoop up talent, customers from Truist 'chaos'

BankUnited Inc. has been looking to move into Atlanta for some time, but it was the merger of equals between Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp. and Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. that ultimately spurred it to action, Chairman and CEO Rajinder Singh said during a conference call to discuss third-quarter earnings.

During the third quarter, BankUnited launched a new commercial lending team in Atlanta, COO Thomas Cornish said. The bank has been looking at Atlanta "from a distance," but the combined BB&T and SunTrust entities, to be named Truist, made it take a harder look at moving into the market, Singh said.

"[The deal] is going to create a lot of chaos in the Atlanta market over the next two or three years. So we see an opportunity, both on acquiring business [and] also acquiring good people," Singh said.

Singh compared the move into Atlanta to BankUnited's move into the Jacksonville, Fla., market a few years ago. The bank hired a team in Jacksonville and has built a few hundred million dollars in loans and deposits there, according to the CEO.

"We're very, very happy with what we've done. We're trying to replicate the same thing in Atlanta," Singh said. He added that the commercial and industrial team in Atlanta will be responsible for lending and generating deposits in that market.

BankUnited is one of several banks hoping to gain customers and talent from the BB&T-SunTrust deal.