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BB&T and SunTrust reveal new name. The merging banks had ‘thousands’ to choose from

Public gives comments on proposed merger between BB&T and SunTrust

Members of the Federal Reserve and FDIC listen to comments on the planned merger of BB&T and SunTrust Banks at the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
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Members of the Federal Reserve and FDIC listen to comments on the planned merger of BB&T and SunTrust Banks at the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

BB&T and SunTrust Banks on Wednesday unveiled the name of the massive bank they plan to create and base in Charlotte through a proposed merger announced this year.

The new bank is to be called Truist, Winston-Salem-based BB&T and Atlanta-based SunTrust said.

Regulatory approvals are still needed for the deal, projected to form the sixth-largest bank in the U.S. by assets and deposits. The new bank is expected to have approximately $442 billion in assets and $324 billion in deposits.

The banks have said they expect to obtain regulatory approvals by the end of the year. If approved, the deal would be the largest U.S. bank merger since the financial crisis of 2008.

The name underscores BB&T’s and SunTrust’s reputations for trust, transparency and honesty, Dontá Wilson, BB&T chief digital and client experience officer, told the Observer this week. “Truist really is conveying a message that we’re going to stay true to our legacy,” he said.

The name also reflects the new bank’s plan to provide better technology to customers, Wilson said.

The combination, announced in February, represents a big development for Charlotte’s financial services industry. Truist is poised to strengthen the region’s standing as the second-largest U.S. banking center. Charlotte has a loose grip on that title, which is measured by the value of loans and other assets held by banks headquartered in the city.

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BB&T and SunTrust revealed their new name to employees during an event Wednesday at the Charlotte Convention Center. Observer staff photo


The merger would also give Charlotte a second bank headquarters.

Although many banks have operations across the metro area, Bank of America is the only one headquartered in the city — the result of years of industry consolidation. Bank of America is the second-largest U.S. bank.

Employee input

For Charlotte, the banks’ move marks the latest name change involving a big employer. Last year, Carolinas HealthCare System, the state’s largest hospital network, changed its name to Atrium Health.

Company name changes can affect building names. After Charter Communications’ 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable, the Charlotte Hornets’ uptown home changed its name from Time Warner Cable Arena to Spectrum Center.

BB&T’s name is on the 10,000-seat home of the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team that opened in March 2014.

The team has been told the ballpark’s name will change, Dan Rajkowski, the Knights’ chief operating officer, said in a statement. But he said the team didn’t have any other details.

BB&T and SunTrust said they hired New York-based Interbrand to help create the name. That firm’s clients have included prominent brands such as pharmaceuticals company Merck, technology giant Samsung and cosmetics retailer Sephora, according to its website.

Wilson declined to disclose how much it paid Interbrand or what other names were considered for the new bank.

“There were thousands that we had to go through,” he said. “This one was clearly a winner.”

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Jennifer Giovannitti, president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, speaks at a public hearing on the planned merger of BB&T and SunTrust on Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

The process to develop the name included soliciting feedback from BB&T’s and SunTrust’s employees, Wilson said.

The banks revealed the name to employees during an event Wednesday at the Charlotte Convention Center.

In a statement, BB&T CEO Kelly King said the name reflects “a shared belief in building a better future for our clients and communities.”

“Truist is a brand name representative of two mission- and purpose-driven companies coming together to serve our clients as a true financial partner,” SunTrust CEO Bill Rogers said in a statement.

The banks said they will unveil their logo at a later date. The new bank’s ticker symbol — the letters under which its stock will trade — also hasn’t been disclosed.

Some of the initial social media reaction to the name, which rhymes with “newest,” was less than flattering.

“How completely underwhelming,” Facebook user Jessica Thompson wrote.

“Lamest!” Bill Clegg commented on Charlotteobserver.com.

And Jimmy Humphrey said on Facebook, “This is what happens when executives are left alone far too long and are detached from reality.”

Questions remain

Banks based in the Charlotte region had $2.38 trillion in assets as of the end of March, versus San Francisco’s $2.29 trillion, the third-largest banking center, according to an analysis for the Observer by S&P Global Market Intelligence. New York remains the largest-banking center with $8.74 trillion in assets.

Earlier Wednesday, the banks announced that their new headquarters in Charlotte would go in the Hearst Tower in uptown Charlotte, just one block from Bank of America’s headquarters.

But other details about the merger remain unknown.

It’s not clear to what extent jobs in Charlotte may be cut to eliminate duplication — a common practice when companies merge.

On Wednesday, the banks said they plan to occupy more than half of the 46-story tower at 214 N. Tryon St. Over time, the headquarters will house approximately 2,000 employees, the banks said.

But executives have also said they plan to save approximately $1.6 billion by combining their companies, including through eliminating jobs and overlapping branches.

The project is also expected to include an innovation and technology center in Charlotte, the banks have said.

BB&T spokesman David White said a decision on a location for that center has not been made yet.

Approvals still needed

Key approvals are required before the deal is finalized — and one prominent member of Congress has pushed regulators to scrutinize the merger more.

Shareholders of both banks haven’t voted on the combination.

Regulators also must approve the merger. The banks on Wednesday reiterated expectations that the deal will close in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and chair of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, is expressing concerns about the merger and has said she plans to hold public hearings on it.

In a May letter to the chairs of the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Waters urged the two regulators to hold additional public hearings of their own.

Waters wrote that the hearing the regulators held in Charlotte in April and Atlanta in May are not enough. Hearings should be held in other states that would be affected by the merger, she wrote.

There are many questions about how the merger could impact employees, branches, consumers and communities, she wrote, adding that it would form the largest bank for which the FDIC has ever served as primary regulator. Waters’ office did not return a request for comment.

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