Philosophy, ethics, and capitalism: An interview with BB&T chairman John Allison

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For 20 years John Allison served as CEO of Branch Banking & Trust Corporation (BB&T), the tenth largest bank in the United States. He retired as CEO at the end of 2008, but has remained with the firm as chairman of the board of directors. Allison attributes BB&T's success to operating by a set of principles that are embodied in the firm's statement of 10 key values. The BB&T Value Statement is a genuine source of guidance for decisions throughout the firm. For example, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a municipality's right to seize property by eminent domain for the purpose of economic development, BB&T issued a statement that it would not provide loans for any projects in which the land for the project had been taken in this manner. When making negative amortization loans became popular, BB&T also refused to participate.In this interview Allison addresses philosophy, ethics, values, and how BB&T harnesses them to guide its business decisions. Characterized as a defender of capitalism and a "philosopher king," Allison often quotes the likes of Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, and Ayn Rand. He discusses leadership development and outlines his contention that successful leaders "evade less and focus more." Allison closes with suggestions for how business schools can address the topics of ethics and leadership. © Academy of Management Learning & Education.

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Academy of Management Learning and Education

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