Truist, the bank formed by the 2019 merger of SunTrust and BB&T, posted a $1.2 billion profit in the fourth quarter Thursday, as the efficiency the regional lending giant pitched as a top reason for its merger starts to take hold.
The coronavirus pandemic has posed the occasional hiccup toward the the Charlotte-based bank’s ambitious merger goals, but the bottom line has been clear: the bank is still making plenty of money.
Truist CEO Kelly King called the results “our best quarter yet in terms of financial performance,” in a statement. Truist shares were little changed in trading Thursday.
The bank produced those results with 1,307 fewer workers than it had in the third quarter, too, it said in an earnings presentation. Truist now has 53,693 employees, down from 59,000 at the beginning of last year. As a part of the merger, the bank is cutting duplicate systems, and closing hundreds of branches.
Revenue was $5.7 billion for the quarter. The bank continues to spend on the merger — adding on another almost half billion dollars in merger-related expenses in the fourth quarter. While the expenses have occasionally frustrated Wall Street analysts, a more aggressive timeline to cut costs has placated some of those concerns.
Behind the scenes
Much of the merger-related work was behind the scenes until recently.
BB&T and SunTrust customers still go to their branches, which have yet to be converted to the new name. Some “blended” BB&T and SunTrust branches are being tested. Customers’ digital banking will start using the Truist brand by the end of 2021.
The investment bank of the predecessor banks was combined last quarter to become Truist Securities, the first major client-facing Truist brand. And Truist recently became the retail bank of the National Football League, but, of course, no one can go to a Truist branch yet as none exist.
The roughly 800 branch closures that will take place as a part of the merger are already underway. Last year, over 100 were closed and 226 are slated to close in the first quarter of 2021, according to a bank earnings presentation. The cuts underway at the bank will eventually save $1.6 billion a year, according to bank forecasts.
The bank also made a mark on its new headquarters city of Charlotte in a memorable way: it put its name on the uptown tower it bought to be its headquarters.
Some locals and the architect of the tower, originally built for Bank of America, were unhappy. And then, to commemorate the one year anniversary of the merger, the bank started lighting up its tower in its new chosen corporate color, Truist purple.