SunTrust to merge with BB&T, get new name

SunTrust and BB&T merger: Here’s the name of the new bank

The biggest bank in Atlanta is getting a new partner — and a new name.

The combined SunTrust and BB&T will be known as Truist Bank, officials announced Wednesday. Expect to see that name (pronounced TRUE-ist) splashed across the region in the next year or so, from the Braves stadium in Cobb County to one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers.

Truist Financial Corp. will be the future name of the parent company of the combined banks, which are expected to complete their merger in the fall or winter.

The branding is the most visible part of the work that must take place before the two long-established Southern banks become one. Upon closing of the merger, the combined parent company will take the Truist name, though the SunTrust and BB&T brands will remain for as long as as two years.

The Braves stadium will still be known as SunTrust Park through the end of this season and possibly next season before the ballpark near I-285 and I-75 is rechristened with the Truist name.

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Kelly King, the chairman and CEO of BB&T, said it will take about a year to combine the two banks’ systems after the merger closes. For now, branches will keep their current branding, as will checks, credit cards and debit cards. Executives want a seamless transition to the new name over the next 18 to 24 months.

SunTrust Plaza, the John Portman-designed and developed tower at 303 Peachtree Street and home to SunTrust for more than two decades, also will be renamed.

SunTrust Plaza is seen on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. The Atlanta-based bank will be called Truist Bank after its merger with BB&T. (Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Photo: Curtis Compton

In Atlanta, the BB&T Atlanta Open pro tennis tournament will likely feature the Truist name in the future as will BB&T-branded minor league baseball fields in Charlotte and Winston-Salem.

The companies hired brand consulting group Interbrand to come up with the new name, crafting it with input from SunTrust and BB&T employees and the banks’ clients through focus groups and other research.

Bank associates and clients centered on four attributes: trustworthy, genuine, innovative and empowering.

“We wanted a name that would express what we stand for,” said King, who will serve as Truist chairman and CEO.

Early reaction on social media was harsh.

“It looks like a typo,” read one tweet. Another said Truist “sounds like an artificial sweetener or a drug for people with restless leg syndrome.”

 

Mark Speece, a founder of the Atlanta-based branding firm StokeSignals, said the name presents challenges. The combined bank is “likely to fight auto-correct and the assumption that the name is spelled with an ‘e’ like the real word ‘truest,” he said.

But perhaps more importantly, Speece said, “Strategically, the name falls flat.”

“‘Trust’ is a baseline attribute for a bank. It is the absolute minimal requirement,” Speece said. “A brand’s story should be more aspirational – providing an opportunity to tell a differentiating, interesting and compelling story.”

But Chris Marinac, a bank consultant with Janney Montgomery Scott in Atlanta, said while the branding is important, other details that will determine how the bank interacts with customers are more so. Those decisions are still being made.

“I think slow-playing this makes a lot of sense,” he said. “Going too fast is where mistakes happen.”

Atlanta-based SunTrust and Winston-Salem-based BB&T announced their corporate marriage in February. The new bank, to establish a new headquarters in Charlotte, is expected to be the sixth largest in the nation by deposits. 

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SunTrust is Georgia’s largest bank and No. 1 in metro Atlanta in terms of deposits. It is second in total number of branches, with 154 offices as of June.

BB&T, which has a regional hub in Atlantic Station, ranks fourth in total deposits and retail locations in the metro area.

The companies expect about $1.6 billion in annual cost savings by 2022, including savings from job cuts and combining redundant operations. It’s unclear how many jobs in Atlanta might be affected.

The BB&T building is seen on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank and its Southeastern rival, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T is merging to create the sixth-largest bank in the U.S., a marriage that will cost Atlanta a Fortune 500 headquarters. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Last week, SunTrust announced the new bank will double its annual community investment in the Atlanta region over the next three years, continuing long-term sponsorships of metro area organizations including the Atlanta Falcons and the Georgia Aquarium.

Atlanta will be home to Truist’s commercial banking operations. SunTrust Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers, who will be the president and chief operating officer of Truist, said Wednesday the bank will be deliberate in rolling out the name. A logo, colors and typography for Truist are pending.

SunTrust made a splash in 2014 when it signed a 25-year deal to brand the Atlanta Braves’ new stadium. Adding the Truist name to a major league stadium will remain a crucial marketing investment for the new bank as it establishes a national brand to compete with larger rivals such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase.

Also, on Wednesday, SunTrust and BB&T announced the location of their combined corporate headquarters in Charlotte. Truist will take more than 560,000 square feet of space in 214 N. Tryon Street, also known as Hearst Tower. The 46-story building, one of Charlotte’s tallest, is owned by Atlanta-based Cousins Properties in what’s known as Uptown Charlotte.

The tower will ultimately house 2,000 Truist employees, including top corporate executives, communications, human resources, legal and tech workers. It will also be home to a future Truist technology innovation center. Current tenants in the tower, which include Bank of America, will vacate as Truist occupies its space.

Cousins said the combined bank has an option to buy the tower later this year for $455.5 million in a deal that could close early next year if exercised.

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