David Fuller, EVP, treasury and payments solutions, for Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks, has spent his entire 25-year career in the financial services industry, honing both his management and customer service philosophies. Today transparency and accountability play an important role in his management style, and his customer service credo revolves around gaining an understanding of clients' businesses and pain points. As a result, SunTrust's ($177.4 billion in assets) treasury and payments solutions area balances innovative technology with good common sense to meet clients' needs.
BS&T: Describe your management philosophy.
Fuller: Over the years I've learned to hire staff who are much smarter than I am and then not stand in the way of their success. You have to know when to offer assistance and when to get out of the way and let them do their jobs.
Staff look for consistent messages about what matters in their performance, so it's critical that I'm clear about our mission. To be effective, the mission statement must be very simple. In our case, it's to be the best at building and delivering payments solutions. "Best" doesn't mean biggest, but it does mean understanding and responding to client needs.
BS&T: What skills do you look for in IT staff?
Fuller: We've developed a skills grid and are fairly deliberate about what technology skills IT staff need to have. While technology competency is important, what is even more important is possessing skills such as business acumen, the propensity to partner and the ability to communicate effectively.
BS&T: How do you motivate and retain good people?
Fuller: Being clear about expectations is a key motivator. People want to know when they are doing well and when they are not doing as well as you would like.
We tend to undervalue the importance of expressing appreciation when people do a good job. I try to express appreciation to every person involved in an enhancement or innovation project -- no matter where they are in the company.
BS&T: What are the most important industrywide issues impacting the payments business?
Fuller: The increased complexity of the payments function is a challenge. Payments used to be the easy part of our clients' jobs -- they took checks and wrote checks. Today there are some really innovative payments solutions, and we need to move into an advisory role to help clients make the right choices. True consulting is more than simply presenting clients with an a la carte menu of services; it's understanding their business needs, taking the time to listen to their unique challenges and helping them navigate through the complexity.
BS&T: What initiatives has SunTrust introduced to reduce that complexity? Fuller: Our clients are asked to do more with less, so our initiatives must focus on making our clients more efficient. One example is our Enterprise Spend Platform, which combines a purchasing card and expense management functionality into a single platform. It's also modular so clients can select the functions they want to drive efficient expense management.