SunTrust’s Jim Manley Talks Fiscal Benefits and the Mission to Help His Community

Kim Wade

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

You might find it alarming to know 75 percent of Americans consider themselves financially stressed and 40 percent admit they don’t have $2,000 saved for an emergency. That’s why in 2016, SunTrust Bank created the onUp movement to inspire Americans to take steps to improve their financial health and confidence. And while the movement recently celebrated more than one million participants, it’s just beginning to take off in Middle Georgia. 

According to Jim Manley, regional president for the SunTrust Macon/Columbus/Albany regions, the movement is starting to pick up especially now that they have rolled out their pilot program of Momentum onUp. While Manley says he is eager to help his community with  financial education, he admits that even professionals in the banking industry sometimes need help with their financial literacy. Having spent the past 11 years in Macon, he says he’s had the chance to not only have a positive impact on his co-workers, but to become entrenched in the Macon community. He says he truly believes when everyone in a community has the tools they need to become financially confident, everyone benefits.

To understand Manley’s commitment to making his community financially stronger, it might help to know he’s a self-proclaimed Georgia boy with deep rural roots, so helping smaller communities connect and grow has always been a passion.

“I went to UGA and received a marketing degree,” he says. “I knew I wanted to be in business and I thought about sales. Then, several good friends went into large training programs in banking and had great experiences, so I gave it a try and ended up gravitating to finance.”

During his more than 28-year career in banking, Manley has worked in a range of areas including retail and corporate banking, as well as management development. While he says it’s been a fulfilling career, he admits that the highlights come from his ability to serve his community.

“SunTrust’s business model encourages senior management to be highly involved in local businesses through community engagement and serving on advisory boards.”

Manley adds that the unique history of SunTrust in Macon enables him to serve on some extraordinary advisory boards that represent more than a century of SunTrust’s investment in the community.

“Our brand represents strength and stability,” he explains. “We’ve been very consistent and vital in our community, dating back to 1890. We were recently recognized as a 100-year member and the oldest financial services company by the Chamber of Commerce here. We really emphasize involvement in the community because of the impact and experience it provides.” 

And, he says, it’s not just the Chamber of Commerce where SunTrust has made its impact. SunTrust leaders and directors have been involved in many noteworthy organizations in the local community through the years including the Macon Rotary Club and the Community Foundation of Central Georgia   The Macon Rotary Club is one of the oldest Rotary Clubs in the world. “It was one of the first 50 chapters and one of our bank executives was a founder, so we  have  been involved since the beginning.”  The same goes for the Community Foundation, which will soon celebrate its 25th anniversary and has now provided grants of more than $70 million back into the local community.

Manley explains that while participating and investing in the community is important, SunTrust’s focus is to help everyone move toward financial confidence. It’s that part of the company’s purpose that led SunTrust to promote the onUp movement on a local level in his market. 

SunTrust provides free financial resources at, including savings calculators, budgeting tools and monthly newsletters with financial advice. The site also includes a “Mental Wealth Quiz” to determine a person’s money personality, and the online service is available to everyone regardless of whether or not they bank with SunTrust.

“It’s incumbent as a major financial institution to take financial literacy seriously,” Manley explains. “The program was initially offered to our own teammates, and our research shows that many say they have a much better handle on their financial situation and are more confident about their future. This is rewarding because we know we’ve made a difference in our teammate’s lives. Research also shows that people who are more financially confident have fewer absences from work and are more productive, so everybody wins.” 

Since the movement was successful within their own organization, they decided to launch it nationally in 2016. The goal is to have five million individuals or households use the program. Within the first 12 months, more than one million people have signed up to join the movement, a program unlike anything else that is offered in the financial services world. 

While the program is taking a national approach, Manley says locally they are “putting their money where their mouth is” with investments to promote financial confidence in the community. For example, SunTrust conducts financial literacy programs with students at Mercer Medical School. SunTrust also has gone onsite to a number of schools in Bibb County to teach students about money at the elementary level. “The sooner we get to these students the better for their future.”

In addition, SunTrust collaborates with Habitat for Humanity on a program that helps educate those that receive homes on the best tools to pay their new mortgage, manage new home expenses and much more.

In order to properly execute these programs, the teams rely heavily on new technology that can be used to educate consumers and accelerate their mission.

“It’s part of our DNA. We have been this quiet, steady hand in our community for a long time, and we are evolving quite nicely. It is going to pay big dividends in our future.”