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SunTrust looks to relocate some Charlotte-area branches

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/25/16/31/1ebu4L.Em.138.jpeg|474
    - SUNTRUST BANKS
    Tom McDermott
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/25/16/31/1ppuLI.Em.138.jpeg|209
    ROBERT LAHSER - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
    SunTrust Banks’ Blakeney branch is at 9836 Rea Road in south Charlotte, an area where the bank is looking to step up its presence.

SunTrust Banks is considering relocating some of its branches in the Charlotte region, in a move to optimize the placement of the locations nine years after it entered the market.

South Charlotte and the Lake Norman area could be the recipients of the relocated branches, said Tom McDermott, senior vice president of cross channel strategy for the Atlanta-based regional bank. SunTrust said previously it would like more branches in those two areas.

SunTrust is the sixth-largest bank by deposits in the Charlotte area. As it competes with its larger peers – and their bigger branch networks – the challenge for SunTrust and other banks is making sure existing branches are in the right locations. That’s more important now than ever as banks cut branches to reduce expenses in challenging financial times.

SunTrust entered North and South Carolina in 2004 through its purchase of Memphis, Tenn.-based National Commerce Financial Corp. The regional bank has 33 Charlotte-area branches, compared with Bank of America’s 64 and Wells Fargo’s 93.

McDermott said SunTrust is examining where it can add branches and upgraded automated teller machines in the Charlotte area. Last week, SunTrust announced plans to open a branch in southwest Charlotte by January and upgrade its ATMs in the state.

McDermott said SunTrust isn’t planning on making big cuts or additions to its number of branches in Charlotte at this point.

“I think the city number will grow a little bit,” he said. “But I do think we have an opportunity to reposition quite a bit and relocate our branches.”

SunTrust has said it views south Charlotte and the Lake Norman areas as good locations for branches because of the strong growth there. The bank has also said it is eyeing sites just across the South Carolina line for more branches.

The bank is already boosting its presence in SouthPark, where SunTrust’s new regional headquarters is under construction. McDermott said Ballantyne is one area where SunTrust lacks branches. The bank could either relocate a branch to Ballantyne or put an ATM there, he said.

In the Lake Norman area, SunTrust has only two branches, in Huntersville and Mooresville, according to the bank’s website.

SunTrust’s examination of its locations comes as banks nationwide are taking a hard look at the role of branches as more customers migrate to mobile and online banking. That shift has led some banks to introduce smaller types of branches that are focused less on basic transactions and more on lending and selling products and services.

McDermott said that, in this new era of banking, SunTrust won’t always put a full-service branch where it wants a presence. In some locations, the bank might install only an ATM that allows real-time video access to a teller in a call center, he said.

“Banking in the future is not always going to be just about branches,” McDermott said. “It’s going to be about client touch-points.”

SunTrust remains bullish on Charlotte, even though it’s competing with Bank of America and Wells Fargo, he said.

“The challenge, obviously, is you have two of the major players sitting right in downtown on Tryon Street.”

Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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