Bill Rogers - CEO of SunTrust (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 7, 2019

SunTrust CEO Bill Rogers may be moving to Charlotte, N.C., but Atlanta will stay in his heart and mind.

Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. and Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp. announced a “merger of equals” earlier this year, when they decided it would be best to pick a neutral location (Charlotte) to become the headquarters of the new bank.

Bill Rogers – CEO of SunTrust (Photo by Maria Saporta)
Bill Rogers – CEO of SunTrust (Photo by Maria Saporta)

But Rogers said in an interview that the Atlanta market is critical to the new bank’s success.

“We have enjoyed a lead role in Atlanta, and Atlanta will be the single most important business center for the new bank,” Rogers said in an extended interview on June 4. “We have got this lead position, and we are not going to cede it to anybody.”

Rogers sat down for an interview on June 4 when he talked about the new bank’s commitment to double its investment in the Atlanta community from $50 million a year to $100 million a year for the next three years.

The investment, which will be in the areas of workforce development, affordable housing, youth development and financial wellbeing, is a demonstration of the bank’s commitment to Atlanta even though the 125-year-old institution will no longer be based in the Georgia capital.

“We wanted to make that as an affirmative statement,” Rogers said. “We play an important role in Atlanta, and we are going to continue to play that role. This is just a continuation of everything we have done.”

When the yet-to-be-named bank completes its merger, Rogers said the Atlanta will be its top market in terms of clients, relationships and amount of deposits.

“Atlanta, just by definition, is really important to us,” said Rogers, who expects the that the merged bank’s market share will grow relative to Atlanta’s growth. “It’s very important to the health and importance of the new company.”

BB&T also has announced that it will be doubling its philanthropic giving in Winston-Salem for the next three years, and investments also are being made in Charlotte as the home of the merged bank’s new headquarters.

“Charlotte’s growth is not Atlanta’s loss,” Rogers said. “This whole concept of building your community to build your bank is significant.”

Rogers, who was born in Durham, N.C., has spent his entire career with SunTrust and its predecessor bank – Trust Company of Georgia. During the span of his career, Rogers has been deeply engaged in Atlanta-based civic organizations – the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Operation HOPE, the Atlanta Committee for Progress, Achieve Atlanta and Emory University’s board of trustees.

Under the proposed merger, BB&T CEO Kelly King would become the CEO of the combined bank and Rogers would be his second in command. The plan is for King to step down on Sept. 12, 2021, when Rogers will become the new bank’s CEO.

“My job will be in Charlotte, and our long-term headquarters is in Charlotte,” Rogers said. “That’s a commitment that we made, and that was part of what made the merger of equals work. We chose a neutral location, and chose to change the name of our respective companies.”

Rogers will be moving to Charlotte, but he plans to continue to have a residence in Atlanta. It is likely that he will continue to be involved in certain community roles in Atlanta along with the bank’s key leaders in Georgia.

“We have great leadership in Atlanta, and we will continue to have great leadership in Atlanta,” Rogers said. “This is not a one-man band.”

When asked about his personal feelings of the merger and his role, Rogers said he is “energized” about the future.

“This is the most rewarding work I’ve done in my career,” Rogers said, adding that he is on the “ground floor” of building a premier financial institution that will be “generationally enduring.”

“I’m in this for the long term,” Rogers said. “I feel great about the relevance of Atlanta and the importance of the market. Atlanta is critical to the vibrancy of the Southeast. It’s been an important part to the growth of this institution and the region.”

Maria Saporta, executive editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state. From 2008 to 2020, she wrote weekly columns...

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