Objectivism in Practice

A very nice piece on John Allison and BB&T, in the National Review, of all places: Objectivist Philosophy for Fun and Profit:

John Allison isn’t your typical bank executive. For one thing, when he retired at the end of last year as CEO of BB&T — a North Carolina–based bank with more than 1,500 branches managing $143 billion in assets — he had recently shepherded it through the worst banking crisis since the Great Depression, leaving it in fairly good shape. He’s certainly seen as a success where many others in his field have failed miserably as of late.

But there’s another thing that makes Allison far from typical. When he discusses his profession, he doesn’t talk about numbers; he talks about values and principles. In fact, when you go on BB&T’s website, you will find a section entitled “Our Philosophy”:

In a rapidly changing and unpredictable world, individuals and organizations need a clear set of fundamental principles to guide their actions. At BB&T we know the content of our business will, and should, experience constant change. Change is necessary for progress. However, the context, our vision, mission and values, are unchanging because these principles are based on basic truths.

While a lot of financial companies indulge in such boilerplate because it sounds good in annual reports, Allison can credibly assert that living up to that philosophy is one reason BB&T has been able to ride out the current economic crisis. The company made tough decisions consistent with its philosophy, rather than chasing after the latest — and, it turned out, ephemeral — sources of financial innovation.

Read the whole thing.

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