Kelly King, left, is chairman and CEO of BB&T and will retain those titles after the merger to become Truist. Bill Rogers, right, chairman and CEO of SunTrust, will be president and chief operating officer of Truist. Photo: Truist

Bank customers have questions about Truist as merger nears

People had jokes soon after SunTrust and BB&T announced their combined new name would be Truist.

They had questions, too. Here are answers to some of the queries we’re hearing from readers.

What’s happening?

Atlanta’s SunTrust and BB&T, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., are combining to become Truist Bank. The merger is expected to close later this year. The new entity will be headquartered in Charlotte and will be the sixth largest in the nation by deposits.

When will we start seeing SunTrust and BB&T signs and ATMs replaced with the Truist brand?

No time soon. 

“This is going to be slow-played,” said Chris Marinac, a bank analyst in Atlanta with Janney Montgomery Scott. “It’s going to take two years or longer in terms of branches changing. The lessons learned over the past 20 years are, take your time, do things methodically and do not disrupt the customer.”

Atlanta Braves fans recoiled at the prospect of “Truist Field” or some such during Thursday’s game against Pittsburgh. By the time rechristening happens, probably in 2021, Marinac said the new name might have caught on.

“I was around in the early 1990s when the old Columbus Bank and Trust transferred to Synovus. Back in the early 90s, it was very bizarre to take two Latin words and put them together. People used to think ‘Chick-fil-A’ was odd; 40 years ago, that brand name was strange. Now we can’t get through the day without Chick-fil-A. The fact that there’s a lot of Twitter polls (about the Truist name) - that’s all noise.”

I’m a SunTrust (or BB&T) customer. Is my favorite branch going to close?

Possibly, but again, probably not any time soon. 

SunTrust and BB&T have shed branches in recent years as more business shifts online. About a quarter of the two companies’ banking centers are within two miles of each other, meaning hundreds of branch locations could close in the years ahead. That process will be a careful one, though. Customers name convenience and proximity to a branch key to picking which bank to do business with, according to Norcross-based Phoenix Synergistics, which regularly surveys bank and credit union customers.

Do I need to take actions now to make sure my paycheck direct deposit or automatic pension/Social Security deposits continue? Will my account number or debit card number change?

No. Keep banking as you usually do. If, at some point down the road, any actions are needed on your part, the bank will communicate that to clients.

“The last thing BB&T and SunTrust want to do is give customers a reason to leave,” Marinac said.

What changes can I expect?

Consumer advocate Clark Howard predicts better, more robust digital banking services. Bankrate.com’s Greg McBride said the larger company would have resources to offer new and more specialized loans for consumers and businesses. McBride also cautioned that bigger isn’t always necessarily better for the consumer, though: “Concentrated market share tends to mean less favorable pricing for consumers, less competitive deposit rates and less competitive pricing for many loans.”

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