The University of West Georgia Richards College of Business hosted a speaker this week whose vast experience in the financial industry offered unique insight and wisdom to those in attendance.
The virtual event – the final installment in the Richards College of Business BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise series (referred to this year as BB&T now Truist Lecture in Free Enterprise due to the company’s merger with SunTrust) – was postponed last year due to COVID-19. The series, designed to generate a dialogue about the ethical foundation of capitalism and free enterprise, is the result of a partnership between the Richards College of Business and the BB&T Foundation (now the Truist Foundation).
The speaker, Kelly King, is chairman and chief executive officer of Truist Financial Corporation, the nation’s premier financial services company serving approximately 10 million households. King has a rich history and unparalleled background in banking and finance.
Dr. Faye McIntyre, dean of the Richards College of Business and Sewell Chair of Private Enterprise, spoke on the value of King’s lecture and said she greatly appreciates Truist’s continuing support and partnership.
“We were thrilled to have Mr. King as our speaker for the BB&T now Truist Lecture in Free Enterprise,” said McIntyre. “His experience in the banking world is immense, and his knowledge and insight were incredibly impactful in a positive and inspiring way.”
King spoke in depth on several topics during his presentation, from the human spirit, to racial inequality and social injustice, to success in business and financial stability and growth. Furthermore, he praised the company’s longstanding, strong relationship with UWG.
“I've been looking forward to this,” King said. “Our relationship with the university goes back a long way, and we are very proud of what you all have done in leading in your geographical area and graduating outstanding students who are to be leaders in business and other areas across the country.”
One of King’s key areas of discussion was the characteristics of outstanding leaders, one of which was to fully know and understand oneself.
“If you're not honest about where you are then you can be really fooled about where you're trying to go,” he said. “Being a very objective, rational thinker is a big part of being a successful leader.”
King said he is encouraged by the upturn in the economy following the unprecedented events of 2020 and that he always felt like the United States would snap back quicker and better than some had anticipated.
“The good news is things are looking much better,” King said. “My own prediction, based on reading a lot and hearing a lot from national leaders that are really on the forefront, was that we would recover faster and more substantially than many believed. We are in a dramatically better place than we were, and we are seeing considerable improvement with regard to the economy. I think for the next two or three years we can look forward to a fairly positive economic recovery.”
King expressed his feelings and thoughts on the country’s resilience during the pandemic, saying the forward momentum has been impressive and inspiring to him.
“It has been incredible to me how well people in this country have kept a positive attitude,” King said. “They have kept businesses open, schools figured out how to do remote classes, and restaurants added outside seating. It is amazing how very innovative and creative people have been. That's very encouraging for the future looking forward.”
On the topics of racial inequality and social injustice, King said he believes it is important to have open and honest discussions and to find solutions, and he is encouraged by the current dialogue in the country.
“It has been a very challenging time for our country,” he said. “I'm glad about these really healthy discussions about these issues in our company and in society. These problems have been around for a long time, and it is really good that we are now finding honest, genuine ways in most cases to talk about it and try to find solutions. It is important that we do.”
A native of North Carolina, King’s career began in 1972 when he joined the Management Development Program of Truist’s predecessor, BB&T. His work at BB&T included leadership roles in commercial and retail banking, operations, insurance, corporate financial services, investment services and capital markets.
He served as chief operating officer of BB&T Corporation and Branch Banking & Trust Company from June 2004 to December 2008 and president of BB&T Corporation from 1996 to June 2004. He was named president and chief executive officer of BB&T Corporation and chairman and chief executive officer of Branch Banking & Trust Company in January 2009 and became chairman of BB&T in January 2010.
In December 2019, King became chairman and chief executive officer of Truist Financial Corporation, created through the merger of equals between BB&T Corporation and SunTrust Banks Inc.