New Truist CEO: Atlanta is bank’s most important marketBB&T's Kelly King with SunTrust's Bill Rogers during a CNBC interview last February when the $55 billion merger was announced (Special: CNBC)
By Maria Saporta
While Atlanta did not land the headquarters of the newly-formed Truist, it will be the bank’s most important market in its footprint.
In terms of deposits, Truist has has $55.8 billion in deposits in metro Atlanta compared to $33.1 billion in Washington, D.C.; $26 billion in Winston-Salem; $7.3 billion in Miami; and $6.2 billion in Charlotte – the corporate headquarters of the new bank.
The $66 billion merger of Winston-Salem-based BB&T Corp. (NYSE: BBT) with Atlanta-based SunTrust (NYSE: STI) into Truist Financial Corp. closed at midnight on Friday, Dec. 6. The combined bank’s first regular business day is today.
“We will have more deposits in Atlanta than in Charlotte or Winston-Salem,” said Kelly King, chairman and CEO of Truist and the former CEO of BB&T. “Atlanta is just a much bigger operation for us than Charlotte.”
King also was quick to say that Truist will have the largest market share of any bank in metro Atlanta. It also will rank No. 1 or No. 2 in most of the major markets (14 of the top 20) in its territory.
In a telephone conference call interview between King and Bill Rogers, president and chief operating officer of Truist and the former chairman and CEO of SunTrust on the Tuesday before the closing, the two executives did their best to say every market is important to the new bank.
“We are really excited about finally being in the game,” King said. “What’s exciting is that Atlanta is going to land fine; Winston-Salem is going to land fine; and Charlotte is going to land fine. We are nothing else but the combination of our communities. Atlanta is in our heat and soul. We are super excited about our position in Atlanta.”
In addition to having the most deposits, Truist will have more employees in Atlanta than in any of its markets including the headquarters in Charlotte. Neither King nor Rogers shared how many employees or branches each market would have saying those were not the scorecards that mattered.
“We like to think of each of our cities being headquarters,” said Rogers, repeating the commitment the merged bank has made to invest $300 million in the Atlanta community over the next three years. “We were leaders, we are leaders, and we are going to continue to be leaders.”
Rogers also was quick to point out that Jenna Kelly will be the bank’s leader in Atlanta.
“This is really about building a fantastic new company that will be important to the communities that we serve,” Rogers said.
Atlanta also will be the headquarters of two of the bank’s most important business units – Corporate and Investment Banking (which incorporates the SunTrust-Robinson Humphrey unit) and Commercial Real Estate, which includes the bank’s national commercial real estate group, real estate corporate and investment banking and affordable housing expertise through Community Capital.
“Historically, we all tend to think how big and important a bank is the number of branches, employees and deposits,” King said. “The real scorecard is what’s happening to Atlanta.”
What matters most is whether there is equal economic opportunity in Atlanta and the quality of education in the various communities. The healthier the communities, the healthier the bank will be.
“As Truist grows, all parts of Truist will grow,” King said. “We expect to grow in all the communities, but specifically in Atlanta, Winston-Salem and Charlotte.”
King and Rogers said that in the months leading up to the closing, the companies took great pains to make sure it was a merger of equals. Seven members of the executive team are from BB&T and seven are from SunTrust.
The new board will include all 11 members from the SunTrust board and 11 of the 15 members of the BB&T board.
“We had four of our 15 who chose to retire so we could make it even,” said King, who referred to the new bank as a true merger of equals. “In a true merger of equals, everyone wins.”
Truist is now the sixth largest financial institution in the country.
“We are pretty close to fifth,” King said. “We are clearly large enough to play at scale with anybody in our market.”
While King and Rogers touted all the plans and preparations for the merger, they acknowledged the bank’s name – Truist – had not been universally well-received.
“SunTrust and BB&T were exceptional brands. What a great brand to build on,” Rogers said. “Truist will be that same brand… I’m just so excited about this opportunity to have this great brand.”
King said they had undergone rigorous scientific research to come up with the name.
“It turned out to be perfect,” King said. “Making up a new word and a new name, you get a fresh start.”
When asked what message they would want to share with people in Atlanta both spoke of the future.
“What I would say to the people in Atlanta, this is an exciting time for everyone in Atlanta,” King said. “Truist wants to make the world and its communities better. We can truly make a difference one community at a time.”
Rogers then chimed in: “I would say to the leaders of Atlanta, we absolutely respect our heritage. It’s a very important component of who we are, and it will be for decades to come.”