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BB&T and SunTrust Merger: 'Mega Win' for NC

August 05, 2019

Written by John Braiser

Kelly King reassured Triad business leaders that the loss of BB&T's headquarters won't be an overall loss for the region.
The BB&T CEO, talking to High Point University President Nido Qubein in a Q&A format at Thursday morning's Wyndham Champions Breakfast, said any reports of a "culture war" involving BB&T and SunTrust are "silly."
In a Bloomberg report in April, Wells Fargo & Co. analyst Mike Mayo cited the need for a new culture integrating the two banks as an important factor in the success of "Truist," the name of the new bank.
"There's no culture war," King told an audience of a few hundred at Grandover Resort.
Last week, King and SunTrust counterpart William Rogers Sr. also were peppered with questions about national "culture war" topics such as financing for private prison operators, gun manufacturers and low-income homebuyers by members of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee.
In February, the two banks announced they would merge, becoming the nation's sixth-largest bank, with headquarters in Charlotte. In June, they announced the new bank would be named Truist, a choice lampooned by many pundits.
King compared the negotiations on the leadership, location and name of the merged bank to "root canal." King will be the first CEO, but will yield to SunTrust's Bill Rogers Jr. in September 2021 when King turns 73.
SunTrust is based in Atlanta. So Charlotte, the headquarters of Bank of America and the East Coast headquarters for Wells Fargo, was a compromise.
"It was a very hard decision, but it was necessary," King said, explaining the move would help Truist compete with the nation's four biggest banks -- JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo. "As large as we are, we aren't large enough."
The new bank will handle more than $442 billion in assets and $324 billion in deposits for more than 10 million U.S. households. King said Truist will be among the largest three banks in all its markets.
King said the country needs more $500 billion companies to avoid dominance by oligarchies, which he said dominate countries such as Canada and Australia.
King, who told the audience he grew up in public housing before beginning his 47-year career with BB&T, reminded those fearful that the loss of BB&T headquarters will translate to lost jobs in the Triad that precedent indicates otherwise. He pointed out that BB&T had approximately 1,000 jobs in Wilson in 1995 when it moved to Winston-Salem, and now employs more than 2,000 in Wilson.
"Everybody looking back 15 years from now will be happy we did what we did," King said. "This is a mega win for North Carolina."
In typical King fashion, he stressed the need to improve education, especially reading skills of young children, and "plant the seeds of hope."
David Mounts, CEO of Inmar, which consolidated its offices into Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in 2014, also stressed education -- an increase in post-secondary graduates -- as a priority for the Triad.
Mounts, instrumental in bringing Venture Café to Winston-Salem, ranked the city with Singapore as the top places he's seen where government and civic leaders best foster innovation. Mounts also established the Mounts Robotic Center.
"We are creating a culture of risk seekers," Mounts said of Winston-Salem.
Mounts said Winston-Salem ranks among the best U.S. markets for tech employees for salary related to cost of living.
Stan Kelly, CEO of the Piedmont Triad Partnership, spoke on progress of the Carolina Core, which was announced at the breakfast last year. Carolina Core promotes four megasites from Winston-Salem to Fayetteville along U.S. 421.
Kelly said 17 Carolina Core signs are either up or soon to be up along U.S. 421. He expressed confidence the corridor will fulfill a goal of becoming an aerospace capital by 2038.