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Investors in 2 of SC's biggest banks bless marriage — and the new name, Truist

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BB&T and SunTrust CEOs Kelly King (left) and Bill Rogers unveiled their post-merger corporate brand on June 12, 2019. File/Provided

BB&T and SunTrust investors have overwhelmingly approved a $28 billion deal that will bring together two of the largest and oldest regional banks in the Southeast.

The special shareholder elections held at separate locations Tuesday were among the final hurdles for the merger, which was announced earlier this year. More than 98 percent of the votes cast were in favor of marrying the North Carolina- and Georgia-based banks.

As part of the deal, SunTrust and BB&T plan to shed their decades-old identities and operate as Truist Financial Corp. Shareholders also overwhelmingly approved the new brand name, which has drawn mixed reviews from customers.

"This is an important milestone as we move toward our goal of creating a bold, transformative organization that benefits our shareholders, associates, clients and communities," BB&T chief executive Kelly King said in a prepared statement.

The all-stock transaction is expected to close by the end of the year, assuming the banks obtain the remaining regulatory approvals.

The tie-up will add a fresh wrinkle to the South Carolina banking landscape, where BB&T has about 100 branches and $8.4 billion in deposits. SunTrust has opened about 40 offices and amassed $3 billion in deposits since expanding into the Palmetto State in 2004.

The banks anticipate the merger will enable them to eliminate about $1.3 billion in annual overhead expenses. While details have no been disclosed, branch closings and job cuts are inevitable. 

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BB&T shareholders will own more than half of Truist, which is projected to be the sixth-largest U.S. bank owner based on its projected $442 billion in assets and $324 billion in deposits. It will serve about 10 million households. 

The new holding company will be based on neutral ground, in Charlotte. It will keep a community banking center in BB&T's hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C. It also will maintain a wholesale operation in Atlanta, where SunTrust is headquartered.

The merger is the largest for the banking industry since the last recession more than a decade ago.

King and SunTrust CEO Bill Rogers have said the merger will create a formidable regional counterweight to bigger multinational rivals and give the newly combined Truist Bank the firepower to invest more in the digital bells and whistles that customers are demanding.

"Our best path forward is to align with a partner that values a purpose-driven approach, sound risk management and leading technology. We found that in BB&T," Rogers said in a statement. "Together, our combined scale will allow us to compete more effectively while enhancing our client experience and community support."

BB&T traces its corporate ancestry to a rural bank that provided loans to North Carolina farmers starting in 1872.

SunTrust is slightly younger. It roots go back to 1891, when Georgia lawmakers approved a charter by organizers of Commercial Travelers' Savings Bank in Atlanta. The SunTrust name was adopted in 1985, after a merger.

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott

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