The $66 billion merger between Winston-Salem’s BB&T and Atlanta’s SunTrust is set to be finalized this week. The new bank, to be called Truist, will be headquartered in the Hearst Tower in uptown Charlotte.
For more on what happens next with the merger and other business news "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry is joined by Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger business newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.
Marshall Terry: So, Tony, with the merger about to be done, how long before we see the name Truist start to appear around town?
Tony Mecia: Well, I think it's gonna be a number of months. You know, in these bank mergers, there are a number of things that the banks have to do. There's some that are customer facing, some that are, you know, putting new signs on the branches. Things like: Do you need to get new checks? Do you need to get a new account number? They've got to work through those issues.
There are also issues that happen behind the scenes. Things like merging their technology, merging their accounting practices, figuring out personnel. It's kind of like a marriage going into it. That metaphor is used a lot of times in mergers. And, except instead of two people combining, you have thousands and thousands of people. And so each side's going to have to change a little bit to make it work. And so, there are a lot of moving pieces.
Terry: And speaking of all the branches -- what's going to happen with the SunTrust and BB&T branches? Are they going to become Truist all of a sudden?
Mecia: As part of some of the anti-trust concerns, the Justice Department required them to divest some branches -- none in the Charlotte area, mostly in Raleigh and Greensboro -- but the rest of them eventually will take the Truist name. The thinking is that the whole process is going to take a couple of years and that the banks in the Carolinas and in Georgia are probably going to go last. So that might be a couple of years before we see that.
Terry: Now, is there anything at this point that could prevent this merger from happening?
Mecia: Doesn't look like it, really at this point. All signs are go. They've gotten all the regulatory approvals that they need. It's kind of like closing on a house. You have a closing date and you sort of work toward that date. And it certainly looks like everything is is headed that direction.
Terry: Now, in other financial news, Charles Schwab is moving its headquarters from San Francisco to a suburb of Dallas. You report this move actually has implications for Charlotte. How so?
Mecia: Well, financial people in Charlotte are always sort of looking at San Francisco, hoping we might be able to pick up some companies that are moving o
ut of California because it's known as sort of a high-tax, high-cost area. Maybe a great place to live, maybe not a great place to do business. And so Charlotte has always wanted to pick up some of those companies -- especially Wells Fargo, which is headquartered in San Francisco. And the thinking is, "Well, gosh, we have a new CEO. Maybe Wells Fargo would want to move its headquarters here?" We don't really know the answer to that.
But the other piece of it that's interesting, Marshall, is that for a number of years, Charlotte and San Francisco have been going kind of back and forth in which city has the most deposits, which is the bigger banking center. For a long time, Charlotte was No. 2 and San Francisco was No. 3. Now, in 2017, San Francisco overtook Charlotte, largely on the growth of Charles Schwab. And then Charlotte battled back, became the No. 2 center again in 2018.
Now Schwab is moving to Texas at the same time that Charlotte is picking up Truist. So that means that if you look at the deposits, Charlotte is now in pretty good shape for maintaining that spot as the No. 2 banking center.
Terry: Let's move now to the Whitewater Center, which you report recently got into some trouble with Alcohol Law Enforcement over a trail race?
Mecia: Right. I report in the Charlotte Ledger this week that Alcohol Law Enforcement agents last year got a tip that the Whitewater Center and NoDa Brewing were co-sponsoring a 6K trail race at the Whitewater Center called the Brew Dash 6K. Now, that sounds pretty normal to most people, but the alcohol laws that we have in North Carolina, like a lot of other states, prohibit retailers and alcohol producers from collaborating. These are laws that date to right after Prohibition.
And so the ALE investigated this case of joint advertising for this trail race, sent some agents to NoDa Brewing, to the Whitewater Center, to investigate it. And the Whitewater Center last month settled the case paid $3,000 to avoid having its alcohol license suspended.
Terry: And didn't you write that there was a bit of a kerfuffle between the CEO of the Whitewater Center and ALE?
Yeah. So the ALE agent went to NoDa Brewing to ask NoDa Brewing for the sponsorship agreement and NoDa Brewing and handed it over. Then the ALE agent, according to the report filed with the ABC Commission, went to the Whitewater Center, asked the Whitewater Center CEO Jeff Wise for the sponsorship agreement. And Wise said, "Well, I'm going to call my lawyer. You're going to need a subpoena." The ALE agent said, "No, no. I want it now. And if you don't turn it over, you're gonna go to jail." And so Wise turned it over.
And so, Marshall, if you talk to alcohol producers in town, next time you're at a bar and you strike up a conversation with a bartender, they have a lot of choice opinions about how aggressively alcohol laws are enforced. And they think that maybe some of the agents are a little bit too diligent in enforcing North Carolina's alcohol laws.
Terry: And that's where we're going to have to leave it this week. Thanks, Tony.
Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.
Terry: That's Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.