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Business Owners Committed to Their Companies, but When Ready to Move On, They Won't Look Back

Key Concern Is Having Enough Money to Maintain Lifestyle After the Transition

Oct 4, 2007

Love it or leave it. That's how many business owners view their companies, according to a recent survey released today by SunTrust Bank Private Wealth Management. Nearly 70% of those surveyed said they are not worried about giving up control of their business.

The study surveyed 201 business owners whose companies have at least $10 million in annual revenue about how they plan to transition out of their companies and what concerns they have about succession planning.

"When they think about life after they have left the business, money is the top concern for the business owners we surveyed. Like the rest of us, they're worried about having enough money to sustain themselves through retirement or other ventures," said Dave Johnston, Senior Vice President, SunTrust Private Wealth Management. "They are less concerned about such things as losing a sense of identity once they leave the company they've built or losing a place in the business community."

Love it or leave it

Business owners express a "love it or leave it" point of view. Survey findings indicate business owners are committed to their companies while at the helm, but that their commitment is not a lifelong love affair. Once the decision is made to turn over the business, few express strong concerns about the company they will leave behind.

  -- Three in ten believe they will not have any ties to the business.

  -- Among those surveyed, having the personal assets to maintain their
     lifestyle after leaving the business is more of a concern than
     relinquishing control of the business.

  -- Letting go of the company is more stressful for first-generation
     owners, who are more likely than owners of established companies to be
     concerned about their business being sold or franchised, reactions from
     clients, and giving up control.

  -- For those who expect to remain tied to their business after
     transitioning the company, they are likely to assume the following
       -- Consultant (64%)
       -- Board member (53%)
       -- Executive officer (37%), or
       -- Employee of the business (27%).

  Passing it on

Succession planning is a significant issue for business owners, considering that 41% of those surveyed expect their focus to shift to other opportunities after the business has been transitioned to someone else.

"However, the survey showed that a succession plan is not always crystal clear," Mr. Johnston said. "For example, a third (32%) of business owners remain undecided about their future plans for choosing a successor for the business. The findings also showed that 5% simply do not plan to leave their business."

  -- When they leave their business, 44% of owners plan to "keep it in the
     family" by:
       -- promoting someone from within (21%),
       -- passing it on to a family member (22%), or
       -- selling the business to an employee (5%).

Education, on the job training, and personal mentoring are the three key ways business owners plan to prepare successors to assume a leadership role in the company.

  -- Of those surveyed, 14% plan to sell the business to a third party.

  Additional Survey Results

Most of the business owners surveyed show a strong commitment to their communities. Philanthropy is integrated into their businesses now and they expect philanthropic work to play a significant role in their future plans. When they are no longer fully involved in their businesses, 82% of owners surveyed plan to volunteer their time and 72% plan to perform philanthropic work.

  -- 39% of business owners already do pro bono work themselves, and 45% say
     their companies do pro bono work.

  -- 51% of business owners' companies provide matching funds to employee

  -- 69% volunteer their own time in the community.

SunTrust conducted the survey, with GfK Roper Public Affairs, to better understand what is on the minds of their business owner clients. The Bank's Business Owner Specialty Group combines the expertise of their Commercial and Private Wealth Management lines of business to help business owners with the business and personal financial complexities that they face.

SunTrust Private Wealth Management recently received top ranking in the Luxury Brand Status Index survey for the most prestigious wealth management brand in the regional bank segment. The Luxury Institute ( surveyed ultra-high net worth consumers on three groups: private banks, commercial banks and regional banks.


GfK Roper Public Affairs was commissioned by SunTrust Bank Private Wealth Management in order to understand the key issues and concerns among the high net worth business owner population. An online survey was conducted to reach this elite group. In total, 201 business owners with $10 million or more in revenue were surveyed. The survey was conducted in May 2007.

About SunTrust

SunTrust Banks, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, is one of the nation's largest banking organizations, serving a broad range of consumer, commercial, corporate and institutional clients. As of June 30, 2007, SunTrust had total assets of $180.3 billion and total deposits of $122.9 billion. The Company operates an extensive branch and ATM network throughout the high-growth Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states and a full array of technology-based, 24- hour delivery channels. The Company also serves customers in selected markets nationally. Its primary businesses include deposit, credit, trust and investment services. Through various subsidiaries the Company provides mortgage banking, insurance, brokerage, equipment leasing and capital markets services. SunTrust's Internet address is

About GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media

GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media is a division of GfK Custom Research, North America. Specializing in customized public opinion polling, media & communications research, and corporate reputation measurement. In addition to delivering a broad range of customized research studies, GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media draws from GfK's syndicated consumer tracking services, Roper Reports® US and Roper Reports® Worldwide, which monitor consumer values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors in the US and 30 other countries. Headquartered in New York, GfK Custom Research, North America is part of the GfK Group. With home offices in Nuremberg, Germany, the GfK Group is among the top-five market research organizations in the world. In addition to 13 subsidiaries in German, the GfK Group has more than 130 subsidiaries and affiliates in over 70 countries. For more information, visit

  Securities and Insurance Products and Services
  Are not FDIC or any other Government Agency Insured
  Are Not Bank Guaranteed               May Lose Value

SunTrust Private Wealth Management Business Owner Specialty Group is a marketing name used by SunTrust Banks, Inc. and the following affiliates: Banking and trust products and services are provided by SunTrust Bank. Securities, insurance and other investment products and services are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a registered broker/dealer and a member of the FINRA and SIPC, and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., a registered broker/dealer and a member of the NYSE, NASD and SIPC. Capital markets and investment banking services are provided by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc. SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is the trade name for the corporate and investment banking services of SunTrust Banks, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc. Insurance products and services are offered by SunTrust Insurance Services, Inc., a licensed insurance agency. Investment advisory products and services are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., Trusco Capital Management, Inc. and GenSpring Family Offices, LLC (f/k/a Asset Management Advisors, L.L.C.), investment advisers registered with the SEC. Mr. Johnston is not affiliated with SunTrust Investment Services, Inc.

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SOURCE: SunTrust Banks, Inc.

CONTACT: Hugh Suhr, +1-404-827-6813