Associated Bank, part of Wisconsin Associated Banc-Corp, has created a national Specialized Financial Services Group to capitalize on opportunities in targeted industry segments and has also hired several executives to lead this group.

John Utz joins as executive vice president, specialized financial services director. Mr Utz will be based in Milwaukee and will oversee the development of the national specialized financial services group.

Mr Utz recently joined Associated Bank from Union Bank in Los Angeles, where he held a number of senior management positions in commercial and corporate banking during the past 16 years. Most recently, he held the dual positions of senior vice president, head of capital markets for Union Bank and president of UnionBanCal Equities.

Peter Bulandr has joined the Associated Bank as specialized financial services market manager. Mr Bulandr will be based in Chicago. He will lead a group of bankers focused on providing commercial banking services to companies in the insurance industry.

Mr Bulandr joins from Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, where he headed up the bank’s insurance industry sector. Previously, he served as senior vice president and product delivery manager for Bank of America, Chicago. Other experience includes a number of positions in commercial banking during nearly 15 years at LaSalle Bank, Chicago.

Christopher O’Brien has also been named specialized financial services market manager. Mr O’Brien, who will be based in Chicago, will manage a team focused on secondary education. He will also assist in the development of the company’s overall specialized industries activities.

Mr O’Brien has more than 20 years of commercial banking experience. Prior to joining Associated, he held the position of senior vice president and senior client manager, middle market banking group at Bank of America. Previously, he served as senior vice president and division head in the specialized finance group at LaSalle Bank.

Mark Sander, executive vice president and head of commercial banking for Associated Bank, said: “The addition of these industry experts is an initial step in building our business in specialized industries where we believe we have the potential to grow. They know these targeted niches well, including the major players and the dynamics of the industry.”