Collaborating to provide innovative solutions is always front of mind for Tom Hackett, chairman and CEO of Truist Securities, and his team. “We believe in the power of what we and our clients can achieve together,” he says.
In today’s economic climate, this alliance has become even more vital—and exciting. “I love to watch my team approach a challenge from different angles,” says Hackett. “A difficult environment can spark an added layer of creativity and new ideas because some traditional solutions are no longer viable.”
Here, Hackett shares how he fosters creative collaboration in any market cycle.
What’s the first step in fostering creative collaboration between your team and their clients?
A: Every relationship at Truist Securities starts with a conversation. We ask questions and listen closely so we can understand what that client’s facing and where they’re trying to go. Only then do we think about the solutions that can address those challenges and open new opportunities.
That’s completely different than, “Here’s a menu with three products, and this is the one we want you to choose.” From our perspective, before we can be thoughtful in proposing solutions, our understanding of the client must be in the right place.
How we solve problems and meet our clients’ needs—those are certainly important, and we focus on them. But, first, we must understand where our clients are trying to go, and then we can talk about the best way to get there.
How do you take that next step—getting to the mechanics of the solution?
A: Some conversations with clients and prospects begin with them wanting help navigating a tricky situation—particularly during times of economic uncertainty. We start by understanding how they got into their current situation, and then the discussion evolves from there.
When appropriate, especially if we’re facing a new or unique challenge, we’ll bring together a diverse group of experts and partners. The client’s Coverage Team relationship manager will give everyone an overview of the challenge and the relevant details. And almost as soon as they’re done speaking, the ideas just start bouncing around. Before you know it, we’ve got a page of alternatives to take to that client. And then we sit down with them and work through each one.
Clients often come to us with something they think they want, but after we work through the creative process with them, they wind up doing something a little bit different. You can see the lightbulb go on in their head. They’ll say, “Oh, that’s not what I was expecting to do, but it really is the right solution at the moment.” When a solution evolves like that, it creates a real bonding experience because it was co-created by everyone involved.
Lastly, we add all those new solutions to our toolkit—and share them across our team—which puts us in a better position to address similar challenges in the future.
When and how do you bring clients proactive solutions to avoid tricky situations?
A: I tell clients and prospects that whatever is the most important thing to them on any given day is also the most important thing to us. On certain days, that will be an M&A transaction, taking their company public, or doing a bond financing. On other days, it will be making sure they can free up capital to launch a new product initiative. We put equal emphasis and equal importance on each of those things in those moments. We care about what they care about, and we help them work toward those goals.
We also have an ongoing dialogue with clients about events that might happen in the future and what steps they can take today to mitigate risks and maximize opportunities. As we gain a greater understanding and create a shared history, we also develop a deeper level of trust.
That’s especially helpful for those points in time when we advise our clients not to do something. Because that’s an important part of the relationship as well. If we think a client is doing something that puts undue risk on their company—now or in the future—we’ll tell them. Hopefully, that way we help them avoid some tricky situations.
Because our focus is on longer-term relationships, we’re in a much better position to offer advice to clients facing a challenge. Not only do we understand how to deal with their current problem, but we’re going to craft solutions that will fit into the client’s long-term plan.
In the past, a long-term plan and a five-year plan were often synonymous. How has that changed?
A: We don’t think of “long term” as being measured in years. The long-term strategy for our clients is more about how they want to position their business for the future. Our clients are dynamic, and their focus can change over time.
What we think about is, what are you really trying to accomplish? What is the opportunity that you see for your business? What constraints are you dealing with to get your business there? And let’s go to work on those.
We don’t have a piece of paper that says, “This is your five-year plan,” and that will guide and direct how we engage with you. It’s much more fluid than that, and it’s really about where you’re trying to go as an organization—whether that takes two years or three years or 10 years. We want to be there to help you do that.
What is the big-picture impact of this type of creative collaboration?
A: I think our clients value creative collaboration at a very high level, and so does our team at a very personal level. When some people think of companies, they think about them as faceless organizations. But a company is, at its heart, a group of people. So, when we’re helping a company, we’re helping those people, as well as the community they operate in and the customers and clients they serve.
At Truist, our purpose is to inspire and build better lives and communities. Living on purpose—and taking others along on the journey—means we can make the world better together. There are few things more satisfying and powerful than that.