BB&T Chairman Gives Special Ethics Symposium
On Tuesday, April 7, 2009, a capacity crowd in Frank Auditorium was privileged
to hear from John Allison, Chairman of BB&T Bank. Allison addressed students, faculty,
and other community members in a special Ethics Symposium lecture focused on developing
and living by a set of reliable values.
Allison began his ethics lecture with a core question he has asked his employees:
"Are you making the world a better place to live with your work?" That values-based
question, he claimed, is central to customer satisfaction, which is necessary for
customer loyalty and the profitability of a business, but does not necessarily come
without real effort. "Defining your values," Allison continued, "is a scientific
John Allison served as Chief Executive Officer of BB&T Corp. from 1989 to 2008.
He began his service with BB&T in 1971 and served as its President since 1987. Mr.
Allison has been Chairman of BB&T Corp., since July 1989. He serves as a Director
of The Financial Clearing House, Independent College Fund and the Global TransPark
Foundation. He serves as a Member of American Bankers Association and The Financial
Services Roundtable. He serves as Member of the Board of Visitors at Wake Forest
University Baptist Medical Center, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and
Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. Mr. Allison holds a BS in Business
Administration from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MBA from
The lecture continued with an engaging summary of BB&T’s corporate values through
the lens of many perspectives: philosophical, historical, and psychological. Allison,
a riveting speaker, delivered his relevant and enlightening remarks without referring
to notes or even pausing to rest. His passion for the topic, and for encouraging
the use of value-based decision making, was clear throughout his remarks.
Reality is BB&T’s base value, which Allison defined as having "no resistance
to facts." Further clarifying, he stated, "Reality is independent of popularity
and authority". Having a strong sense of reality will allow an individual to move
towards the second value—reason. Allison encouraged his listeners to "look at your
fundamental beliefs and examine them for contradictions. Contradictions don’t exist
Allison’s compelling argument developed to include the values of independent
thinking, productivity, honesty, integrity, justice, pride, self-esteem, and teamwork.
Each concept was linked to personal issues as well as business situations.
Freshman student David Cencula was thrilled to hear Allison speak, and he was
pleased that the topic was so relevant to his academic studies. "Mr. Allison reinforced
everything that I have learned so far at the Smith School," Cencula said. "He relayed
the idea that the core values of a company should always be considered when making
a business decision."
Kevin Cencula, also a freshman student, was pleased with Allison’s stress on
how "doing good" is a part of running a profitable business. "One valuable lesson
from the event", Cencula said, "is that corporate social responsibility is not necessarily
selfless or done out of the good of one's heart. Often times, it is just good business."
Students, faculty, and a group of BB&T employees in attendance were visibly excited
to hear from such a prominent leader in the banking industry. They were further
pleased to hear from such a reliable source, that business success goes beyond the
standard functions of marketing and finance. Lasting success, Allison reminded them,
comes from "making the world a better place with your work."
Timothy D. Lewis, MBA Candidate 2010