20 Things You Didn’t Know about Suntrust Banks

As of September 2017, SunTrust Bank had total assets of $206 billion and total deposits of $161 billion. SunTrust is a leading provider of financial services, with headquarters located in Atlanta, Georgia.

1. SunTrust Banks traces its ancestral history to the founding of Trust Company of Georgia in 1891.

The Georgia General Assembly granted the original charter for the Commercial Travelers’ Savings Bank. There were 20 founders. By November of 1893, the corporation restructured. It became a trust company and renamed itself Trust Company of Georgia. In 1927, the company chartered Third National Bank in Nashville, TN. In 1934, it chartered The First National Bank at Orlando, FL, which was a predecessor of SunBanks, Inc. In 1985, Trust Company of Georgia merged with SunBanks, Inc. to form SunTrust Banks, Inc. By the end of that year, the total company assets equaled $19.4 billion.

2. SunTrust and The Coca-Cola Company were almost synonymous for decades.

In 1919, Trust Company of Georgia (eventually SunTrust) provided underwriting services for The Coca-Cola Company. In exchange for its services, Trust Company of Georgia received some of the first publicly traded stock of The Coca-Cola Company. Decades later, in 1989, the company gained $10 million when it sold common stock of Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc. which it had attained through a spin-off from The Coca-Cola Company. By 1992, just three years later, the value of SunTrust’s investment in The Coca-Cola Company passed the mark of $1 billion.

3. SunTrust kept Coca-Cola’s secret formula hidden for 86 years.

The secret formula had been kept in SunTrust Bank’s downtown Atlanta location in a vault since 1925. But in 2011, The Coca-Cola Company celebrated the 125th anniversary of Coca-Cola by taking its secret formula out of the vault where it was kept hidden all these years. It was taken to a new home in the completely engaging exhibit premiered at Atlanta’s World of Coca-Cola. Though the formula had been kept secret for 125 years, the vault which contained the formula was made visible to the public for the first time ever. The new permanent exhibit, The Vault of the Secret Formula, opened on December 8, 2011. The company had guarded the secret formula closely. It was never written down and shared only with a small group. Dr. John S. Pemberton invented the famous Coca-Cola formula in 1886. In 1891, Asa Candler purchased the rights to the business and became Coca-Cola’s sole proprietor. But in 1919, a group of investors led by Ernest Woodruff purchased the Coca-Cola Company from Candler and his family. Woodruff asked Candler’s son to write the formula on paper. The paper with the formula was used as collateral for a loan so that Woodruff could finance his purchase. The Guaranty Bank in New York saved the paper in its vault until 1925 when Woodruff had repaid his loan. He reclaimed the secret formula then and took it to the Trust Company Bank in Atlanta for safekeeping. It stayed there until it was moved to the new World of Coca-Cola exhibit for the 2011 celebration.

4. SunTrust sold Coke shares it had held since 1919.

In 2012, the company sold 59 million shares of the 60 million shares it owned in The Coca-Cola Company. At the same time, it transferred one million of its shares to the SunTrust Foundation. As a result, it gained $1.9 billion. It wasn’t a popular move for many. Punk Ziegel & Co analyst Richard Bove told Reuters that he considered the development to be “startling”. He stated that at SunTrust, not touching its Coca-Cola stock “had been an article of faith”. At the time of the stock sale, SunTrust was Coke’s largest shareholder. The only institution holding comparably as much was that of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, and this left many analysts discussing the sale or declining to comment. What was well known is the close ties between Coca-Cola and SunTrust. Former Chief M. Douglas Ivester and then Coke Chief Executive E. Neville Isdell sat on SunTrust’s board. Former SunTrust chief James Williams sat on Coca-Cola’s board. L. Phillip Humann, former Chief Executive, sat on the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises, which was Coke’s largest bottler. Coca-Cola spokesmen mentioned the strong business relationship between the two companies and declined to speculate on either management strategies or whether the Coke formula would be moved to a different bank.

5. SunTrust Bank has provided help to finance 40,000 plus units of affordable housing for seniors.

Not only for seniors, but for other community members, the bank has accomplished their goal of serving communities through its SunTrust Community Capital subsidiary.

6. In 2013, the U.S. government ordered the company to pay $1.5 billion to resolve claims against it.

The claims needing resolution included “shoddy foreclosure practices, servicing and mortgage lending”. In 2014, the company had reached a preliminary settlement in the amount of $968 Million to resolve the state and federal claims that investors purchased faulty mortgages from SunTrust. The settlement amount was also designed to complete SunTrust’s obligations under the national mortgage settlement. The $968 million amount was divided into two portions: the company was required to pay $500 million in customer relief and $468 million as a cash fine related to its Federal Housing Administration insured loans. The penalties it owed for 2012 national mortgage settlement servicing violations were also settled. SunTrust had issued FHA mortgages from 2006 to 2012 and it was reported that as much as 50% did not comply with agency requirements.

7. SunTrust Bank’s New Markets Tax Credit Program supports low and moderate-income communities with equity investments and targeted economic development loans made at below-market rates.

In November 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund selected SunTrust Banks, Inc. to receive $80 million of allocation authority for tax credit. The selection was part of the 2015-2016 round of the program. SunTrust was one of 120 recipients of awards totaling $7 billion. The New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC) is designed to attract investments in rural and urban low-income areas so that jobs can be created, and economic growth will be stimulated. Congress established the NMTC program in December 2000.

8. SunTrust teammates and retirees pledged $6.3 million plus to the United Way in 2015, and the SunTrust Foundation provided $14.1 million to more than 1,500 organizations.

The foundation was established to advise, guide, and lead people to financial wellness and security. The purpose of the foundation is to provide financial counseling and education, workforce development training and entrepreneurship, develop career readiness, and to inspire thought leadership and create new relationships which support community needs. SunTrust believes that helping people to achieve financial well-being will result in a life without financial stress. The bank is dedicated to helping those who need it. The bank focuses on philanthropic causes in specific percentages: 15% for Financial Education such as classroom instruction and teaching adults how to budget and open bank accounts; 16% for Financial Counseling such as dealing with student debt, financial aid, tax preparation and affordable or permanent housing; 11% for Career Readiness and Workforce Development such as academic tutoring for at-risk students, needs-based college or vocational school scholarships, or vocational training; 2% for Small Business and Entrepreneurship such as training for effective financial management and creating small businesses; 50% for Community Grants, 2% for Disaster Relief, and 4% for Matching Contributions.

9. SunTrust launched a medical specialty group in 2014.

The bank’s holding company made the announcement in June 2014. The bank formed the medical specialty group to serve the needs of medical practitioners; working with independent practices, their owners, their physicians and families. The primary offerings were scheduled to be commercial loans and mortgages, financial planning, and investment management.

10. On September 16, 2014, at the official ground-breaking ceremony for the new SunTrust Park baseball stadium, the Atlanta Braves and SunTrust announced their 25-year partnership.

The Atlanta Braves had been at Turner Field since 1997. Turner Field was built specifically to be converted into a baseball-only facility when the Summer Olympics ended. It had been leased to the Atlanta Braves for twenty years. But the braves sought a new ballpark because Turner Field needed about $350 million in improvements and renovations. The new SunTrust Park in Cobb County began as a $1.1 billion project with construction of the new stadium and entertainment, shopping, offices, and residential spaces directly connected to the stadium. The Braves added an additional $400 million to the construction of The Battery Atlanta, the multi-use entertainment district which surrounds the stadium. The first game in SunTrust Park was held on April 14, 2017 with the Braves against the Padres. The Braves won the game 5-2. SunTrust Banks 25-year partnership with the Braves is based on a naming rights deal which is worth more than $10 million per year, which includes ballpark interior and exterior signage, retail banking presence in The Battery Atlanta mixed-use facility, and expansion of the SunTrust club which was at Turner Field. The Brave’s ballpark is SunTrust Bank’s largest sponsorship ever, according to Atlanta’s Hudson & Wenk.

11. In March 2018, SunTrust announced that it would close its last five West Virginia branches.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that SunTrust spokesman, Hugh Suhr, confirmed that the decision to close the branches was based upon careful analysis and study though he declined to state details about the closures. All of the West Virginia branches are located in Putnam and Kanawha counties and they are situated in Kroger stores. This change in the SunTrust branch network stands in stark contrast to 2004 when SunTrust purchased National Commerce Financial Corp. for almost $7 billion to gain its first opportunities in the West Virginia banking market.

12. Perhaps 1.5 million client accounts may have been exposed to a SunTrust Banks security breach.

USA Today reported in April 2018 that SunTrust company CEO said that a former employee had stolen client contact lists. That employee was apparently working with someone else to facilitate the information breach. Certain account balances, phone numbers, names, and addresses were potentially exposed. More sensitive information which would personally identify clients, such as account numbers, user IDs, passwords, PIN, driver’s license information and Social Security numbers were not part of the contact lists which were stolen. SunTrust assured clients that it was working with law enforcement and other experts to resolve the case and issued apologies for any who were affected by the breach. Security measures and monitoring of accounts have been increased. Losses on client accounts would not result in holding clients responsible.

13. OpenSecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics reported the annual lobbying expenditures by SunTrust Banks.

Beginning in 2001, SunTrust Banks total lobbying expenditures were $130,000. In 2001, the total dropped to $20,000 and these were for reported contract expenses for firms hired. From 2003 through 2011, less than $20,000 in itemized lobby expenses were reported. But in 2012, the total reported was $150,641 for firms hired. In 2013, that number increased to $860,000. In 2014, the company spent a reported $1,118,500. In 2015, the company spent a reported $919,000; followed by a reported $855,000 in 2016, a reported $1,049,000 in 2017, and a reported $1,052,000 in 2018.The Center for Responsive Politics noted that a special interest’s lobbying activities vary over time, with a focus on the federal government’s attention to their lobbying issues. It is common for active clients to retain teams of lobbyists and to retain several firms to press cases on behalf of clients. SunTrust primarily hired Capitol Counsel with 5 lobbyists. In 2018, specific issues included taxes and banking with reports listed in the US Senate and US House of Representatives.

14. Chief Risk Officer Jerome Lienhard will retire from SunTrust Banks at the end of 2018.

Lienhard has been with the bank for 40 years. He was praised in a news release for his corporate leadership, high levels of client service, and excellent performance levels across the company, including his work as dean of the Advanced Leadership Program. His successor as CRO will be Ellen Koebler, who will step into the role on January 1, 2019. Koebler has been the consumer solutions executive, but in 2019 her duties will include overseeing multiple forms of corporate risk. She will be responsible for technology, market, operational, credit, compliance, and portfolio risks.

15. SunTrust is currently holding the Off to College Scholarship sweepstakes.

Entrants may enter for a chance to win once each two-week drawing period. The sweepstakes will be open until May 10, 2019 Entrance is online at: https://offtocollegesweepstakes.suntrust.com/ Complete rules are available online with SunTrust.

16. Bloomberg provided Total Annual Compensation for Key SunTrust executives in Fiscal Year 2017.

As of December 4, 2018, Chairman & CEO William Henry Rogers Jr. earned $4.1M; CRO & CE VP Jerome T. Lienhard II earned $1.2M; Vice Chairman, Co-COO & Consumer Segment Executive Mark A. Chancy earned $2.2M; and Co-COO & Wholesale Segment Executive earned $2.0M.

17. SunTrust Banks’ EVP, Head of Branch Banking, Debbie Crowder is American Banker’s No. 23 of The Women to Watch.

The branch banking network is the company’s highest profile in business, and Crowder seeks to improve customer and employee lives in the communities the bank serves. Crowder created a program to develop leadership in staff at SunTrust’s branches. The company has 1,200 of them across 10 states including the District of Columbia. The program is held off-site and includes five days with outside instructors and senior SunTrust employees. The program seeks to enhance knowledge about the bank’s mission, services, and products while inspiring midlevel managers in their work. Crowder earned the BI Worldwide culture champion award in 2017. BI Worldwide consults with companies to help improve employee and customer loyalty. Crowder oversees wealth management and retail banking activities throughout SunTrust’s branches and developed the SunTrust Financial Confidence Center located in Memphis, Tennessee.

18. The SunTrust Building in Richmond, VA was the site of the Over the Edge fundraiser for Special Olympics of Virginia for 8 years.

Each rappeller raised a minimum of $1000 to go over the edge and earned the privilege of bringing a friend along by raising additional funds. The athletes raised funds by rappelling 25 stories from the rooftop of the SunTrust Building to finish at the sidewalk at the bottom.

19. SunTrust debuted its first campaign for onUP at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The advertising spot featured Elise Freezer, and 11-year-old who figure skated with a stuffed bear to the music from Flashdance, “What A Feeling”. The ad was to encourage parents to help their children seek and realize their dreams and aired nationally on NBC. SunTrust’s onUP online program offers resources to help families budget and prepare to make progress toward passionate financial goals such as competing in the Olympics.

20. SunTrust’s onUp Together Volunteerism teammates have participated in more than 1,400,000 hours to support local non-profit organizations.

The program focuses on inspiring teammates to give back to SunTrust communities. In addition to hours dedicated to various programs, teammates have donated millions of dollars, hammered more nails than can be counted, and taught hundreds of courses in financial education for children and adults. The countless hours of dedicated services include a myriad of activities which benefit local communities. Volunteers work to promote financial well-being, following the company purpose of Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being. Volunteers participate through a dedicated website and receive paid time off to conduct their volunteerism. The program was launched in 2010.


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