Truist innovation lab will put customers at center of product development

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DURHAM, N.C. — Truist Financial says it will make its clients the literal centerpiece of its innovation center.

The $470 billion-asset company, formed when BB&T bought SunTrust Banks last month, is planning the center in its corporate headquarters city of Charlotte, N.C.

An open floor plan will let technologists, programmers, branch managers and other employees encircle and work with clients, Kelly King, Truist’s chairman and CEO, said during a media session Tuesday after remarks he made at an economic forecast forum hosted by the North Carolina Bankers Association and the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

“We will work with clients in real time,” King said. “It will be a continuous, iterative process that will let our client and teams see what will really work. … It will be very fluid.”

The company has yet to provide a projected opening date for the center.

Technological improvements are a cornerstone of the $30.8 billion deal that created Truist. The company intends to reinvest some of the cost savings from the merger into new products and services, including enhancements of digital operations.

King has branded that effort T3 because the goal is to blend technology and high-touch service to generate more trust with clients. He said, for instance, that Truist developers will be required to think about how the systems they create will serve clients. Likewise, hiring managers will need to consider how technology will help new employees and customers.

Truist executives have said such moves are necessary to compete more effectively with bigger banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America.

King, in response to a question, said he is not overly concerned about JPMorgan’s reported interest in expanding in the Carolinas. Dan Deegan, JPMorgan’s head of market expansion, participated on a panel at the forum tied to business opportunities in North Carolina.

“I don’t think JPMorgan keeps me up at night,” King said. “We’re a different organization. We really are client-centric. … The advantage we have is that we’re big enough to have scale and to offer products and services but small enough to be community focused.”

Truist will continue to have 24 community banking regions and grant them relative autonomy, King said.

Meanwhile, King said he continues to grow more comfortable with the merger just weeks after it was completed. “The first few weeks are always a period of uncertainty, but several weeks into the journey things have gone extraordinarily well,” he said.

“There have been no big hiccups or surprises,” he added. “We’ve established a good foundation … and I’m even more confident now than I was 30 days ago. There were no unexpected interruptions."

King briefly discussed the U.S. economy and the emerging conflict with Iran during his remarks at the economic forum. The global situation has gone from “a relatively stable state of unrest” to one that it is hard to predict.

“You have to hope and pray that it will not escalate,” he said.

The U.S. economy appears to be chugging along, notwithstanding concerns overseas.

“This is a pretty good time of low unemployment and low rates that will likely continue for the next couple of years — and could continue longer,” King said.

“The only thing that is threatening the continuing economic recovery is ourselves,” he said. “People are expressing concerns over uncertainty. … They are talking about preparing for a recession, which you know can lead to a recession.”

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