Truliant filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in June following the announcement of the combined entities’ new name. It believes the Truist name is a clear infringement, and that the merged banks’ proximity to Truliant’s main business region will confuse consumers and undermine the trust built in the member-owned cooperative.
“We see a perfect storm of ongoing issues for Truliant created by the misappropriation of our name. The quick release of the Truist name into markets where we continue to expand our presence and the fast approaching shareholder votes makes this an extreme challenge for our credit union,” said Truliant President Todd Hall.
Truliant said the SunTrust and BB&T Truist name trades on brand awareness the credit union built over the last 20 years and is working to stop the banks from using the new name.
In an era of growing digital-only and hybrid physical/digital branch access, Truliant believes consumer and market brand confusion will be exacerbated due to shifts in technology that have transformed how brands are represented, accessed and marketed online.
“As a neighboring financial institution, the Truist name is similar enough to ours in look and sound that it creates significant overlap in how both brands are perceived by customers in all of our markets,” Hall said. “Consumers will find it difficult to clearly distinguish with full certainty our names – especially as we’re researched by consumers across current and future digital platforms.”
Truliant has 33 locations, including 15 in the greater Piedmont Triad region (Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point) and 13 locations in the Charlotte-Metro region. It’s online and branch presence spans the central Carolinas, and portions of Virginia and South Carolina.
The Truliant® brand name has been in use since 1999 and is the subject of a federally registered trademark. Truliant’s branches, marketing, products and services are branded with this name, in addition to other names and taglines that include the “Tru” prefix. Truliant has considerable brand equity in its Truliant® and “Tru” family of trademarks.
The proposed name of the new BB&T/SunTrust is “Truist Financial Corp” and will be headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., but it will continue to have operations out of BB&T's current headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., and SunTrust's Atlanta, GA. headquarters.
The Truist name will not become official until the merger closes, which is expected in the second half of 2019. Truist will hold approximately $442 billion in assets and serve more than 10 million households. The “Truist” name will only be voted on by BB&T shareholders.
“We’ve committed two decades, millions of dollars and uncountable hours of dedicated service to our member-owners to build our reputation,” Hall said. “It is disingenuous to trade on someone else's reputation. We will always advocate for what is best for our current and future member-owners.”