SunTrust’s new Charlotte-region president looks to grow market share

Jenna Kelly, SunTrust Banks’ new Charlotte-region president, said Wednesday that the lender continues to hire in Charlotte, which it still sees as an expansion market.
Jenna Kelly, SunTrust Banks’ new Charlotte-region president, said Wednesday that the lender continues to hire in Charlotte, which it still sees as an expansion market.

SunTrust Banks’ new Charlotte-region president said the Atlanta-based lender intends to grow its area market share after slipping last year from fifth place to sixth in a federal ranking of deposits.

On Wednesday, in her first interview with the Observer since being promoted to the position in May, Jenna Kelly also said SunTrust is adding employees in Charlotte, which it continues to see as an expansion market. The lender has been in North Carolina since 2004, the year it acquired Memphis, Tenn. lender National Commerce Financial.

Kelly, 43, oversees SunTrust’s commercial and business banking operations – but not its branches – in the Charlotte region. She was already working in Charlotte for SunTrust’s corporate and investment banking unit when she took on her new role.

She replaced Bill Peele, who had held the position since 2010. In April, SunTrust announced that Peele had left the company, but it has not provided further details.

Kelly discussed the regional lender’s plans for Charlotte during an interview at its new regional headquarters in SouthPark. SunTrust leases space on all five floors of the building, which opened in February and has a SunTrust branch on the first floor.

Below are some key takeaways from her discussion.

On growth in Charlotte

Kelly said SunTrust continues to hire in Charlotte as it seeks to boost its presence and market share locally.

“We have been in a hiring mode ... across our lines of business here in Charlotte,” she said.

The bank says it has about 500 employees in the Charlotte area. Of those, roughly 200 representing a variety of functions work in its regional headquarters building off Sharon Road. Over time, SunTrust has increased the amount of space it leases in the building.

SunTrust has also added functions in Charlotte over the years. Two years ago, the lender relocated its Mid-Atlantic corporate banking operation from Richmond, Va., to Charlotte.

On community involvement

SunTrust’s plans for growing its presence in Charlotte include expanding its community involvement here, Kelly said.

Kelly noted that in July she became chair of the board for Charlotte nonprofit Classroom Central, which collects and distributes free school supplies in local districts. Also, SunTrust will be a presenting sponsor for the Greater Charlotte Heart Walk set for September.

To date, the lender’s name is not on any sports facilities or entertainment venues in Charlotte, home to Bank of America Stadium and PNC Music Pavilion. In Atlanta, its name will be on the new ballpark planned for the Atlanta Braves.

“We continue to look for areas where we can sponsor events or where we can help out that way and raise our profile,” Kelly said.

On Charlotte’s economy

Companies in Charlotte are growing and the market here is “thriving,” Kelly said, but businesses are also facing uncertainties.

“There’s uncertainty around the economy. There’s uncertainty around the pace of recovery, around interest rates. Certainly, there’s been a lot of volatility around currencies and commodity prices,” she said.

But that volatility also creates opportunities for SunTrust to help businesses manage it, she said.

On SunTrust’s market share

SunTrust, the 16th-biggest U.S. bank by assets, is among other players in a highly competitive banking market dominated by Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

Last fall, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. released closely-watched market-share data that showed SunTrust lost its fifth-place ranking to Raleigh-based First Citizens Bank & Trust Co. First Citizens' deposits rose as SunTrust's declined.

“We see a lot of opportunity to grow our market share,” Kelly said. “We’d like to have more market share.”

“Being No. 6 just means we have room to move up in the ranking, and that’s certainly our goal.”