Wachovia Bolsters Sponsor Banking Team –

Once an afterthought for buyouts shops, the Southeastern bank has gradually become a major adviser to buyout firms, relying on acquisitions, strategic shifts and key new hires to build its presence in the space. Proving it is not done yet, at the start of this month, Wachovia made another key move, poaching Jonathan Weiss from J.P. Morgan Chase to head its Financial Sponsors Group.

“The financial sponsors business is critical to our success,” said Wachovia Corporate Finance Head Jeff Armstrong. “Private equity capital is the catalyst for change in many of the sectors that [it] participates in.”

In the past four years, Wachovia has been able grab market share from many of its Wall Street competitors. The firm catapulted to No. 6 on the leveraged loan league tables and Wachovia’s market share of in terms of fee collection has grown from 1.4% to 3.1% in three years time.

Even as some of this growth has come from consolidation, Armstrong credits much of the organic expansion to key additions to the Wachovia team. “If you look back at the last five or six years, we’ve brought on a number of talented people… We’ve been systematically building our banking business sector by sector and product by product on an integrated basis.”

In addition to Weiss, Wachovia hired Bank of America vet Elton Vogel last year in its leveraged finance group and restocked its M&A team with the addition of Robert Engel from Gleacher Partners, who replaced former M&A Head Mark Mealy when he left.

Prior to Weiss, Armstrong had served as head of Wachovia’s Financial Sponsor Group, but in March was bumped up to lead the company’s entire Corporate Finance Division. Weiss, meanwhile, had previously served as a managing director and global head of the J.P. Morgan’s Financial Sponsor group and before that served as head of its Retail Industries Investment Banking Group.

In the new job, based in New York, Weiss will report to Kevin Roche, the head of investment banking.