Whatever you’re looking for, it’s always good when the culture, purpose, mission and values line up. For banker Wes Lee, alignment helped him decide to embark on a career at BB&T now Truist, back in 2012. We interviewed him to look under the hood of Truist’s culture. Here’s what we learned.
Meet Wes Lee, Commercial Real Estate Manager at BB&T, now Truist
Lee grew up in East Georgia, on a farm between Statesboro and Savannah. He got his BS and MBA at Auburn University, where he also met his wife, Margaret. In 2003, they moved to Birmingham, where they are now raising their two children Maggie (12) and William (10).
He spent his career in commercial real estate. Back in 2012, as the country was coming off the Great Recession, he joined BB&T. The big draw:
“I really decided to join the company because of the culture, purpose, mission and values. They permeate the whole organization and shape all decisions for our corporate direction.”Wes Lee
“Inspired by a common purpose, we strive every day to make things better for our clients, teammates and stakeholders.”
According to Lee, Truist’s CEO Kelly King is adamant that the only non-negotiable in the company is the culture. Lee says “we were a purpose-driven organization before that became a buzzword.”
The company sent him to an in-house leadership training institute rather than have him drum up new business right away. Back then, the institute was called “BB&T University.” His first task: learn the bank’s culture and approach to business.
The Truist Purpose
“To inspire and build better lives and communities.”
For Lee, Lighthouse Projects and other community events have been an important way to live out the company purpose.
One project that made a powerful impact on Lee was when they partnered with a nonprofit called Samaritans Feet. Volunteers went in to Birmingham’s Central Park Elementary School to supply socks and shoes to underserved children.
“We partnered with Central Park Elementary in Five Points West. The children would come through and we would find their properly-sized shoes and socks, and we would wash their feet. It’s an act of service back and forth.”Wes Lee
For Lee, Truist’s involvement in projects like this is about “creating opportunities where you can combine a donation with working together as a team. We can help the community while bonding through that experience.”
The Truist Leadership Institute
One of the programs that reflects the company’s purpose and has helped fuel the company’s success is The Truist Leadership Institute. In 1994, BB&T acquired a behavioral science consulting company called Farr Associates, after working with them for many years prior to acquisition to cultivate better leadership both internally and in the community.
In 2018, the BB&T Leadership Institute was launched as part of an initiative to focus outwardly on leadership training to clients and communities.
“Part of what we’ve seen is a major need for leadership in education throughout all the communities we serve,” said Lee. “We’ve started offering scholarships to educators and students to attend the leadership institute to learn and grow as leaders.”
Finally, a program called Truist Momentum helps promote financial wellness and literacy, all while providing another opportunity to live the Truist purpose.
Truist has a threefold mission for three key stakeholders:
- For clients: provide distinctive, secure and successful client experiences through touch and technology.
- For teammates: create an inclusive and energizing environment that empowers teammates to learn, grow and have meaningful careers.
- For stakeholders: optimize long-term value for stakeholders through safe, sound and ethical practices.
Lee explained how the opportunity to realize the mission really drove the merger between BB&T and Suntrust. Combining resources gave them a powerful platform from which they could employ the latest technology to serve their clients.
Studying Just Mercy and learning from each other
One example Lee shared with me of how the company lived out their values was during the summer of 2020, when social justice moved into the forefront of everybody’s conversations.
“We took a really proactive approach and saw it as an opportunity for us to be better and to do better for our teammates and for our communities.Our CEO sent a copy of the book Just Mercy to everyone in the organization. It’s a fabulous book, and Bryan Stevenson hits home on so many of the issues that we were seeing during that time and that we continue to see in the forefront as a country.”
Lee explained how the book and study guide were sent to employees with the expectation that they would read and study both. Truist organized conference calls so people could collaborate and discuss.
“Everybody came together, no matter their place in the organization or job function, to study the book, answer tough questions and have hard discussions. We got to hear other people’s points of view that we’d never have heard otherwise. Afterwards, Bryan Stevenson himself was a guest lecturer to our company.”