BB&T-SunTrust unveil postmerger name that nods to legacies

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The nation’s sixth-largest bank will be known as Truist Financial.

BB&T and SunTrust Banks on Wednesday finally unveiled the brand that they plan to use once their $28.2 billion megamerger closes. Officials said they reviewed thousands of possible names in the last several months, but in the end they simply inserted an “i” in the middle of “trust” — a word their earliest names had in common. BB&T is an abbreviation for Branch Banking and Trust, and Trust Co. of Georgia was the oldest predecessor of SunTrust.

“Truist conveys that we will be true to our legacies,” Susan Somersille Johnson, SunTrust’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview in advance of the official announcement. “We will have honesty and transparency. … We stand for a better future for clients, employees and the community. It will convey an exceptional client experience.”

Over time the name would appear on roughly 3,000 branches stretching from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Texas. It likely will be used for various sports facilities, such as the Atlanta Braves’ stadium, now SunTrust Park, and the Charlotte Knights' minor league baseball stadium, BB&T Ballpark. The planned stock symbol for the combined company has not been announced.

The process of picking and implementing a new brand is tricky, especially in this case. Since the combination has been billed as a merger of equals, the regional banks had no choice but to develop a new identity, several industry experts have said.

“To keep one name over the other doesn’t really scream ‘merger of equals,’ and it just amplifies the opportunity for employee dissonance,” Steven Reider, president of Bancography, said in an interview in March. “This is a transformative merger. … A new name backs that up, to say this is a different entity.”

BB&T and SunTrust hired Interbrand, a New York unit of Omnicom Group, to provide research, brand positioning and naming services. Employees from each company's marketing, digital and client experience divisions participated in the process. Customers were also consulted.

The banks ran parallel processes in the form of a college basketball bracket challenge, where they voted on dozens of values or attributes to be highlighted in the name. Employees were allowed to suggest their own ideas in addition to weighing ones offered by management. Each company came up with an identical final four — trustworthy, innovation, empowering and genuine — that were incorporated into the branding options, Somersille Johnson said.

BB&T and SunTrust have said their new identity should emphasize their digital capabilities.

Dontá Wilson, BB&T’s chief digital and client experience officer, wants to tie in the Truist name to the new company’s innovation strategy, which will include working directly with clients to co-create products and services.

“We want to redefine the client experience and create meaningful change in our communities,” he said. “We’re trying to build a high level of trust, while incorporating the human experience.”

The banks are aiming to complete the deal late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter, provided they receive the necessary regulatory and shareholder approvals. The combined bank would have about $440 billion in assets, and its headquarters would be in Charlotte, North Carolina. BB&T is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and SunTrust is in Atlanta.

Four months have passed since the banks announced their megamerger. In comparison, it took them less than six months to reach an agreement to merge.

It will take even longer for the new company to start using the Truist brand. The logo, typography and visual identity have yet to be revealed. A big focus will be on making sure customers get comfortable with the new identity.

“The name is just one part of the brand,” said Kim Moore-Wright, BB&T’s director of sales optimization.

“What’s really important is that we will keep clients informed along the way,” she said. “For now, there are no changes that clients will notice. Over time, we will start to point to things clients will need to know in the future about products and services.”

This article originally appeared in American Banker.
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M&A Regional banks Branding BB&T SunTrust Truist Financial