Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

SunTrust Putting Branches in Wal-Marts; at Least Four Will Be Located in Jacksonville Supercenters Beginning the Middle of March

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

SunTrust Putting Branches in Wal-Marts; at Least Four Will Be Located in Jacksonville Supercenters Beginning the Middle of March

Article excerpt

Byline: RYAN GEDDES, The Times-Union

It seems Northeast Florida shoppers can pick up almost anything at a Wal-Mart Supercenter, from truck tires to tomato sauce.

So why not mortgages?

Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. is teaming up with the mega-retailer to put branded bank branches in Wal-Mart stores in Georgia, Tennessee and Florida, including at least four in the Jacksonville area. The full-service branches will carry the SunTrust Bank name.

SunTrust stepped into a relationship with Wal-Mart when it merged with National Commerce Financial Corp. last year. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank had branches in 30 Wal-Mart stores, all operating as Wal-Mart MoneyCenters, and SunTrust plans to convert those branches and build about 30 more in Florida.

Construction is already under way at the Wal-Mart Supercenters on Normandy Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard, and branches will open at those stores March 16, said SunTrust spokeswoman Susie Findell. The other two branches, planned for Regency and Orange Park, are scheduled to open March 23.

"It gives us a whole new audience of customers, we're hoping. Our goal is to penetrate every household in Florida," Findell said.

Although about 1,000 Wal-Mart stores nationwide have banks, the SunTrust branches will be the first in the Jacksonville-area, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber.

"We'd love to have a bank in every store," Weber said. "Its very popular."

The Wal-Mart branches will be full-service, offering mortgages, auto loans, investments, retirement plans and other financial products. By occupying a small space in a high-traffic retail environment, SunTrust hopes to get the benefits of a free-standing bank branch without the overhead of building and maintaining a separate structure.

"It's less expensive to build these branches than traditional brick and mortar stores, and we can still offer all of our services," Findell said. …

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