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Atlantic Union's code name for winning Truist customers: 'Project Sundown'

Atlantic Union Bankshares Corp. has a plan for capitalizing on marketplace disruption from the merger of equals between BB&T and SunTrust Banks Inc., now Charlotte, N.C.-based Truist Financial Corp.

The Richmond, Va.-based company has already begun to hire talent and strategize how to gain customers from the MOE in an initiative named "Project Sundown," according to CEO John Asbury. The current lack of customer awareness that BB&T and SunTrust are merging, coupled with potential branch closures, opens up a "multiyear opportunity" for Atlantic Union, management said on the company's 2019 fourth-quarter earnings conference call.

"The greatest market opportunity we're likely to see over the next few years is the Truist merger," Asbury said on the call. Taking advantage of all the customer and talent attrition is a focused initiative for Atlantic Union through 2021.

"We see this as an offensive plan. We know this disruption. We're at ground zero to this event. And we have a sense of what will happen that will be disruptive to customers that will make it opportunistic for us," Atlantic Union Bank President Maria Tedesco said on the call.

Atlantic Union anticipates "considerable" Truist branch closures in Virginia in late 2021 and described the company as "ready" for that disruption, Asbury said.

"We do market research. You'd be surprised at how many consumers have no earthly idea these two companies are merging at this point — not a clue," he said.

Atlantic Union has begun to capitalize on employee attrition. In 2019, the company hired 39 bankers from the Truist companies in a variety of roles, Asbury said.

"We don't want to show our hand too much, but rest assured, there's a very robust action plan. Each line of business has a very targeted set of initiatives. And I would reiterate, this is a multiyear disruption. It has begun. This will play out for years," Asbury said.