NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Citigroup

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has recruited Tom Heath, a

UBS

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investment banker, to lead its coverage of U.S. banks, according to an internal announcement.

Heath was a longtime

JPMorgan Chase

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executive until he joined UBS in 2007. He is said to be close to Ned Kelly, a member of Citigroup's executive committee who was a former colleague at JPMorgan. Kelly was copied on the Jan. 13 announcement from financial institutions group co-heads Peter Babej and David Head.

Heath, a managing director who at UBS focused on banks in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, has already left UBS and will join Citigroup in the middle of next month. He is expected to be the first of several senior financial institutions banker hires by Citigroup following defections from that group in the past couple of years, most notably Gary Shedlin, a close adviser to

BlackRock

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, who joined

Morgan Stanley

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last year.

Now that the U.S. Treasury Department no longer owns a stake in Citigroup, it is better able to recruit new executives than at any time since the crisis began and is expected to be an aggressive recruiter, investment bankers say. A Citigroup spokesman confirmed the hire but did not respond to further questions.

Following a recent spate of deals, U.S. bank M&A activity is expected to heat up in 2011, and such speculation has been driving up shares of weaker banks like

Regions Financial

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and

Synovus Financial

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that are widely thought to be targets for potential acquisitions.

A UBS spokeswoman confirmed Heath's departure, declining further comment. Heath could not be reached.

--

Written by Dan Freed in New York

.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.