May 26, 2008

The shift from expense control to value generation changes how you prioritize what you do, how you fund what you do, how you make investment decisions, and how you measure and manage your IT organization. You're creating an organization that looks a lot more like a line of business than a technology organization.

BS&T: How does IT play a collaborative role with the rest of the organization?

Johnson: We conduct business technology meetings with our business partners — they describe where they are going, and the technology group listens and provides solutions. Collaboration ensures that we are in lockstep with the business.

We have a centralized IT organization, and we look to see if we may have already solved a problem elsewhere within the organization. We can leverage a solution, no matter where the business problem resides.

BS&T: What is the BB&T culture?

Johnson: We have a vision to be the best financial services organization possible — the best of the best. We want to provide long-term value to our shareholders, and that drives how we provide services and conduct our day-to-day business.

BS&T: What skills do you look for in IT staff?

Johnson: Depending on the position, of course, there are technical competencies we need to hire. But what is most important to me are personal characteristics, such as intelligence, adaptability, business acumen and self-motivation. We have a core set of principles that serve as our operating model, and we try to assess how an individual will fit in and adapt to these principles through techniques such as behavior-based interviewing.

BS&T: What are some of those principles?

Johnson: They include fact-based decision making, reason, independent thinking, productivity, teamwork and mutual supportiveness. We also abide by the principles of honesty; integrity; justice, which is fairness in how we evaluate and how we reward employees; and pride, which we define as the reward you get from living up to your values.

BS&T: How do you motivate and retain staff?

Johnson: Motivation comes from within. That said, most people are looking for a pleasant work environment where they are challenged and empowered and feel connected to something larger than themselves. They should also be fairly rewarded for what they do.

BS&T: What has been your greatest career challenge?

Johnson: The CIO role is the most demanding and challenging, but also most exciting, role I've ever had. You have a view into all parts of an organization. However, with that comes great responsibility and a great opportunity to be able to drive value through the organization.

Executive Resume:

Name: Paul Johnson

Age: 51

Title: CIO

Education: University of South Carolina

Other Financial Services Positions: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, NationsBank, Bank of America

Hobbies: Hunting, tennis and reading