Union Bank closes $500M NoVA acquisition, plans to rebrand as Atlantic Union

The Union headquarters in Richmond. (BizSense file photo)

With its first big Northern Virginia push officially underway, Richmond’s biggest locally based bank is rolling out a new identity.

Downtown-based Union Bank & Trust on Friday announced it plans to rebrand later this year as Atlantic Union Bank, a change the now-$16.8 billion institution says will streamline the multiple brands it is currently using as a result of an acquisition streak over the last two years that has given it a broader presence statewide.

The announcement was made in conjunction with the completion its acquisition of Reston-based Access National Bancorp, an all-stock deal valued at $500 million, based on the $31.56 per share closing price of Union’s stock on Jan. 31.

That deal gave Union a dozen branches in Northern Virginia under the Access National Bank and Middleburg Bank brands.

Atlantic Union’s logo.

Union also is still using the Xenith Bank brand in parts of North Carolina, following its acquisition of that brand last year.

“We are currently operating under four bank brands,” Union CEO John Asbury said in an interview Friday. “With the closure of the (Access) merger it presented an opportune time to address more strategically the branding of the bank and move toward something that unified the brands in all markets.

“We want a customer, whether in Reston, Radford or Raleigh, to recognize this is the same company,” he said.

The rebrand will occur in May, Asbury said, and it has been in the works for about year, prompted by the closure of the Xenith deal.

The company, headquartered in James Center, has used the Union Bank & Trust brand since 2015, after having been known since 2010 as Union First Market Bank. It dropped the First Market moniker after acquiring Christiansburg-based StellarOne Bank.

But the Union Bank & Trust name goes back much further. It had used that name since the early 1900s prior to the First Market combination.

Asbury said that history was important to maintain in some way when considering the latest rebrand.

“It was important to us to recognize the brand equity we have and honor the more than 100-year heritage that Union has, but at the same time create a unique identifier.”

Union Chief Marketing Officer Duane Smith said keeping Union in the name also helps keep the brand somewhat recognizable.

“It was important that we build off of Union,” Smith said. “It became an exercise of how do we modify Union in a way that’s reflective of who were are and what we’re going to become.”

With the help of Richmond ad agency West Cary Group, the bank narrowed down hundreds of ideas to a few top choices. It then tested those choices with Union customers.

“This was a clear winner,” Smith said.

Union Bank CEO John Asbury

Asbury also said the Union Bank name couldn’t legally be used in certain markets.

“There are many Union Bank and Trusts across this country and we never had a national trademark,” he said, adding that Atlantic Union was fully available and the company is in the process of trademarking it.

Also slated for a rebrand is the bank’s Union Wealth Management arm, which will become Middleburg Financial – taking advantage of the Middleburg brand’s longtime local presence as a wealth management brand in Central Virginia. That arm will take on Middleburg’s longtime fox logo.

“We had concluded well over a year ago that it would be helpful to have a separate distinct brand” for wealth management, Asbury said. “Customers perceive independently-branded wealth managers as more capable than banks.”

A holding company name change is also being considered – to go from Union Bankshares to Atlantic Union Bankshares. That would require a shareholder vote, which will likely be on the proxy at Union’s next shareholders meeting in May.

A change of the company’s stock ticker symbol from UBSH to AUB would likely also be part of that process.

Asbury said the company wasn’t yet ready to publicly disclose the budget for the rebrand, which will include everything from business cards and stationary to branch signage, and over time, checks and credit and debit cards for customers. Asbury and Smith emphasized customers won’t be forced to order new checks or cards and that those with the company’s four current brands will continue to be accepted.

With the Access deal complete and the rebrand in play, Asbury said Union now has the size and reach to become the dominant player across the state – getting the bank closer to his oft-repeated goal of recreating “the new Crestar,” a reference to a long-since consolidated Virginia banking giant from the late ’90s that had upwards of $24 billion in assets.

He said the new Atlantic Union name keeps further growth in mind.

“We do envision with the passage of time we will move toward a more Mid-Atlantic franchise,” he said. “We believe this will work anywhere we intend to go. We feel like the brand travels.”

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Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
1 year ago

Banks and their names; keeping our sign shops in business. I get the Union name issue but why not multiple names or something more original? Atlantic is already a bank name. FirstAtlantic, a division National Bank of Commerce, with branches in Florida is current bank still open. And BB&T and PNC split up acquired that old BankAtlantic that was in FL and GA And if travel abroad lots of Americans use Atlantic (Atlantic Int’l) Bank for withdrawals of local cash when on Belize. Once they get to be the next “Crestar” I wonder if TD Bank will be their SunTrust?… Read more »

Bert Hapablap
Bert Hapablap
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Dodson

I agree, the cost of a rebranding this size is making some businesses pretty happy and Atlantic Union Bank doesn’t necessarily roll off the tongue either. As for being the next Crestar, I’m sure there are many sharks circling to move into the Virginia market acquire them.