Community banks and credit unions with limited budgets have long turned to third-party broker dealer groups to provide investment services for their customers.

But PrimeVest Financial Services said there's been a pickup in the last 18 months in larger financial institutions outsourcing broker-dealer and advisory services to third parties as they search to grow fee income and grapple with heavier regulation and compliance issues.

The St. Cloud company said Thursday that it signed a long-term deal to provide advisory and investment solutions for Regions Financial Corp., the Birmingham, Ala.-based parent of Regions Bank. Regions Bank is the country's 18th-largest bank by assets, according to SNL Financial's second-quarter ranking.

PrimeVest, which employs 300 people and serves more than 500 banks around the country, said Regions is among the largest banks it has worked with.

"It's a big deal for us," said Sean Casey, PrimeVest executive vice president and director of business development. "Regions will eventually grow into probably our No. 1 client."

PrimeVest said it's on pace to top last year's revenue of $172.5 million. In June, it signed up with Zions Bancorporation in Salt Lake City, which will offer annuities and life insurance through PrimeVest.

"We're one of those little quiet companies that nobody knows about," said Casey.

One reason is that PrimeVest programs at banks and credit unions don't carry the PrimeVest name, but have private labels. The new Regions Bank program, for instance, will be called Regions Investment Solutions.

PrimeVest itself is changing its name next month to Cetera Financial Institutions.

Regions Bank outsourced to PrimeVest after selling most of its Morgan Keegan & Co. broker dealer affiliate earlier this year to Raymond James Financial Corp., and forming its own wealth management and investment groups.

Through PrimeVest, Regions Bank customers will have a full range of services, such as managed accounts, mutual funds, annuities and retirement plans, a bank spokeswoman said. The program is for its retail customers with up to $500,000 in investable assets.

"It really is a way for us to serve the mass market and the mass-affluent market," said Regions spokeswoman Evelyn Mitchell.

PrimeVest was founded in 1984 and has had several ownership changes. In 2010, European banking giant ING Groep sold PrimeVest to Cetera Financial Group, a holding company in El Segundo, Calif., that also owns Genworth Financial Investment Services.

Cetera Financial is in turn financed by Lightyear Capital LLC, a private equity firm in New York run by Donald Marron, former PaineWebber chairman and CEO.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683