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SunTrust CEO dispenses financial, life wisdom to USF students

Bill Rogers speaking to students

Bill Rogers' philosophy for having an enjoyable and fulfilling career is a simple one: do whatever you do with purpose.

The CEO of Atlanta-based SunTrust bank says that banks have gotten a bad rap for being part of the problems the U.S. faces: debt, the housing crisis, and Wall Street greed. But when he wakes up in the morning, Rogers said he sees his bank as being part of the solutions to those problems.

"Our purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being," he told USF Muma College of Business students at a recent October luncheon. "I fundamentally believe every day that if I work harder, I can help more people."

During a Florida trip, Rogers took time out of his schedule to speak with business students about everything from career advice to how to be more financially responsible. Rogers opened his talk by discussing SunTrust's hiring needs and the potential for new students. He spoke about "rock star" USF alumni Caitlin Kennedy and Tony Umholtz, who were at the luncheon, and how well they were doing at the company.

"The fact that we're continuing to hire from USF is a real good indication of success students are having in our company," he said. "This university has got a lot of strong core-value students. There's an appreciation that they've had to work hard to get here."

During Rogers' tenure at SunTrust, he said he is proudest of developing the company's purpose-driven initiatives into a company value employees can unite around, including "The Day of Purpose:" a day off for all SunTrust employees to get their financial affairs in order, whether doing taxes or meeting with a financial planner.

"We want our 26,000 employees to be taking care of their own situation so they can take care of clients," he said.

Bill Rogers, Dean Limayem, and business students

Rogers also spoke with students about the ways they could prepare for financial stability in their own lives. He cited statistics that the No. 1 cause of health issues is stress, and that money is the top cause of stress. He said about 60 percent of Americans feel moderate or high amounts of financial stress. Rogers spoke about his hope that the younger generation wouldn't have to shoulder the burden of their parents' retirement.

"That's an obligation that we've got to be careful not to put in your laps," he said. "I think about you guys all the time."

SunTrust also provided $500 gift cards to four students chosen in a random drawing to start their path to financial well-being.

Rogers, for his part, said he felt like he was a winner after the luncheon.

"I feel like I got a gift today," he said. "I heard things from students that gave me a new way to think about the way we lead a company."

Sophia Benjelloun, a management information systems graduate student who attended the luncheon, was one of the gift card recipients, and said she appreciated the wisdom and financial assistance she received at the luncheon.

"I had to take on a grad class last-minute to continue in the master's program in the spring, and I'm really grateful," she said. "It was nice for someone like Mr. Rogers to take time out of his day to speak to students, and not only to give out advice but also to help out financially."