The Charlotte, North Carolina, economy has grown increasingly diverse, supporting everything from advanced manufacturing to energy and healthcare to education. As part of this community, SunTrust Bank’s efforts to support local industries need to be diverse as well, while remaining part of a larger purpose—lighting the way to financial well-being.
SunTrust wants to help all consumers make smart financial decisions so they can eliminate money-related stress and live happier lives, wherever they may reside. The bank launched The onUp Movement nationally in early 2016 to provide free tools and resources to help inspire financial confidence for everyone. Since the program’s creation, more than three million people have signed up.
“The idea behind the onUp Movement was to improve the well-being of everyone, from CEOs to employees, which in turn improves our community as a whole,” says John Reid, SunTrust’s region president for the Charlotte area. “We don't provide this awareness on the premise that we’ll get something out of it from a business standpoint. We get something out of it from our community just being in a much better position financially because they're more astute in financial literacy than they would be otherwise.”
Putting The Movement into action
Financial literacy is important for companies and consumers alike. In line with that purpose, SunTrust helped to organize an introductory New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) workshop along with the Charlotte Community Development Manager. The workshop provided an overview of the NMTC Program, which is a potential tool to be used in the revitalization of affordable housing in low-income communities in the U.S.
More than 60 participants, including local developers and government officials, attended the free workshop to learn about how they can use the tax credits to help develop Charlotte-area communities. In fact, one business has already put the tax credit to work: a textile company that expanded its business and created new jobs in a low-income area of Cleveland County.
“With the New Market Tax Credit we are able to help businesses—the young, the small, the not-for-profits—that support low-moderate income individuals,” Reid says. “I was at a grand opening for a textile business that utilizes this tax credit and at the event, the county commissioner came up to me and could not express how much our partnership and this credit meant to the county. It will result in providing jobs and an expansion of this business further into the community.”
The bank also worked with Freddie Mac and nonprofit Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership to plan and present a workshop on local down payment assistance programs.
Similar workshops are also being implemented on a much more intimate scale. For example, the bank has teamed with nonprofits such as the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club of America to help kids understand the importance of financial well-being from an early age. These efforts are brought to elementary schools as well.
OneTeam for one community
In order for SunTrust to balance the needs specific to the Charlotte community, they meet and partner with organizations as a team. This OneTeam approach allows the bank to provide a holistic partnership, whether that’s through a business transaction or simply an informational workshop. After all, in a community as diverse as Charlotte, organizations want to work with teams that are also diverse in both their experience and their skillsets.
“Our OneTeam approach is something we do well,” Reid says. “On every call and at every meeting with an organization, we are going to have a team on it. This is the only way an accurate solution can be provided for whatever needs may arise. It creates an environment for success.”
Through volunteering or providing local services, teammates practice a purpose-driven approach outside of the bank’s walls, as well. “Our teammates participate in collaborative community efforts and constantly network to uncover new opportunities, which help to support our overall purpose of lighting the way to financial well-being,” Reid says.
Between 2016 and 2017, SunTrust employees in the Charlotte area gave more than 9,000 hours to more than 2,000 different local services focused on affordable housing, economic development and other community development initiatives.
Laying foundations for the future
Through the SunTrust Foundation, the bank also supports a number of nonprofits, including Grameen America, which gives women microloans and financial training to start their own businesses, the Second Harvest Foodbank of Metrolina and Habitat for Humanity. These financial contributions frequently come with employee involvement to help the bank make the largest possible positive impact. Teammates can also increase their own contributions to many nonprofits by accessing matching funds from SunTrust.
“Each year we go through a foundation review of all the different types of grant requests in the community, and we ask ourselves ‘How will this benefit the community?’” Reid says. “We want to be a part of their organization, to help deliver their message and purpose of what they do in the communities. From charity walks to for-cause events to financial literacy workshops and delivering the onUp message, we do it all with great pride for this community.”