Big changes for BB&T

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The announced merger of BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. of Atlanta is a seismic shocker for Winston-Salem whose lasting effects are, at best, uncertain.

While Mayor Allen Joines and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce are approaching the merger optimistically, it will mean major changes for BB&T employees, from corporate offices to bank branches.

But Winston-Salem has weathered significant upheavals in its corporate world before (for example, First Union’s acquisition of Wachovia Bank) and we’re stronger for it. We’ll get through this.

Announced last week, the merger, which is still subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, would form the nation’s sixth-largest traditional bank with $442 billion in total assets by year’s end, the Journal’s Richard Craver reported Thursday. BB&T shareholders would own 57 percent of the combined bank — an all-stock transaction valued at $66 billion. It also would be the largest corporate transaction in Winston-Salem history.

“This is a true merger of equals, combining the best of both companies to create the premier financial institution of the future,” Kelly King, BB&T’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

King would be the combined bank’s chairman and chief executive through Sept. 12, 2021. The combined company’s executive management team would consist equally of executives from SunTrust and BB&T, the Journal reported.

The most obvious impact is the loss of a corporate headquarters in Winston-Salem and the prestige and influence that go with it. Such losses are a blow to any city’s psyche and sense of itself. The new bank would establish a headquarters in Charlotte that would focus on its digital platform. That headquarters would likely siphon some resources and executives from Winston-Salem, including King, who plans to move to Charlotte, the Journal reported. And the merger would likely lead to the consolidation of branch operations and possibly the termination of some longtime employees.

But Winston-Salem would retain the community banking center operations, while SunTrust would retain wholesale banking. And Joines said Thursday that the bank had committed to him and the chamber that the level of community investment in Winston-Salem would increase. He also said he expected the number of jobs to increase in the long term. That’s encouraging.

The chamber’s CEO and president, Mark Owens, did remind residents, however, that while BB&T has invested millions of dollars in the community and continues to be committed to Winston-Salem, “it’s also important that we focus on growing the next BB&Ts, the next companies, that are the next in the pipeline of our future. …”

Owens is right. The business landscape in the city has changed over the last two decades. In the past, Winston-Salem overly relied on a core group of corporate benefactors. City leaders know better now. Winston-Salem’s economy is diverse and resilient enough to withstand a change like this one.

No one likes to hear this kind of news. But, by all indications, the new bank plans to preserve the old bank’s strong commitment to Winston-Salem. And that’s a good thing.


— The Winston-Salem Journal

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