James B. Williams
March 1 1992 by Peter Lacey
In an era marked by debates about the merits of delegating decision-making authority, James B. Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of SunTrust Banks, takes a pragmatic approach.
“My managers have autonomy until they aren’t making money. Then they don’t have it anymore,” Williams said. “Rather than wake up at night wondering what’s happening in the 50 banks we own, I want the guys who are running them to wake up at night.”
If that’s so, Williams’ team might be in need of a catnap. Suntrust is sagging under $673.3 million in nonperforming assets, and Williams allows: “We’re a little scared of making loans.” Even so,, observers generally give the CEO high grades for his stewardship at $34.6 billion-asset SunTrust, citing his decision to play up the bank’s strengths and take a hands-on approach.
“I know something about everything at SunTrust,” Williams says. “I think I spend more time watching our assets than the average banking CEO does.”
These days, with SunTrust’s
Overall, SunTrust ranks among the top 20 American banks in assets and market capitalization. Trust Company of
In 1991, SunTrust reported net income of $370.7 million, up 5.8 percent from $350.4 million the year before.
Despite tough times in the banking industry, Williams is already planning for expansion. “We have to wait on the economy,” he said. “When we get down to $300 million or $400 million in nonperforming assets, then we’ll charge.”