Cynthia Williams

Cynthia A. Williams
BB&T’s Executive Diversity Council Chair Senior Executive Vice President Chief Communications Officer

Headquarters: Winston-Salem, NC
Business: Banking / Financial Services
CEO: Kelly S. King
Employees: 37,000


At BB&T, diversity and inclusion extends beyond simply doing the right thing. While the North Carolina-based company recognizes it’s essential for meeting the needs of clients and associates, it has made D&I inherent in core values impacting its 37,000 employees.

From recruitment to training, and sales to client service, BB&T maintains a competitive edge by continually embracing the diversity of its workforce and the communities where it conducts business. “Diversity and inclusion benefits everyone because it creates an environment where everyone feels valued,” said Cynthia Williams, chair of BB&T’s Executive Diversity Counsel. She’s also a member of the company’s executive management team and senior executive vice president and chief communications officer.

Under Williams’ leadership, the BB&T workforce has a role, relationship and responsibility for being the face of BB&T’s diversity and inclusion commitment. Key internal aspects directly influencing the culture include BB&T University’s curriculum for raising cultural awareness and understandings; associate volunteers who form advocacy groups around diverse demographics; and senior and executive leaders who serve on BB&T’s Executive Diversity Council; and its corporate Diversity Department.


“For more than a century the company was a bank located primarily in eastern North Carolina. In the nineties the company expanded across the Southeast and more recently into Texas and Pennsylvania. “These markets are very different than our historical footprint creating more cultural diversity from Far East Asian to Amish and Mennonite clients and associates,” Williams said.

As demographics shift so does the company’s client and employee bases. Noting the company’s growth, Williams says it opens opportunities to internally create cultural awareness of differing demographic groups and improve the company’s product line.

“Our product line has already expanded to meet the unique needs of immigrant clients, international clients, LGBT clients and those in low to moderate income groups,” Williams said. “We developed those products in part through feedback from the associates in those communities who help us identify those needs. Having so many associates, in both operational and sales roles, who understand and reflect the uniqueness of all of our communities help us to be more nimble, create better teamwork and provide the products our clients need,” she added.


Last year, the company merged initiatives in marketing, multicultural banking, community development and charitable giving. “This has created lots of synergies for improving our brand across diverse client groups. We are touching our clients in the branches, digitally and through the media in one voice with many more inclusive messages,” Williams said.

Among its numerous initiatives, the company is in the process of launching an awareness initiative for its associates on how women consume financial information and is planning a marketing campaign for its Asian clients.

BB&T developed its targeted strategy for diversity and inclusion about five years ago and has made tremendous progress. “The challenge continues to be making diversity and inclusion part of our culture and not simply an initiative,” Williams said.


BB&T measures and tracks metrics around recruiting, hiring, training, turnover, supplier diversity, and associate engagement through a diversity scorecard that summarizes annual progress. The company also makes diversity and inclusion visible through messages shared on quarterly videos with all associates, and its Executive Diversity Council meets regularly to discuss strategies and progress being made toward organizational goals. Associate volunteer resource groups also carry D&I messaging throughout the organization. These groups boast large associate memberships that receive direct communications around networking events, educational opportunities, and overall progress through e-mails, newsletters and websites.

Over the years, Williams has been recognized for a multitude of achievements, including being named one of the “Most Powerful Women in Finance” by Women of Color magazine.


  • Profiles in Diversity Journal – Diversity Leader Award
  • Keynote – First for overall customer experience among U.S. retail banking websites
  • Training Magazine – World’s Top 125 Organizations for Excellent Training
  • Association for Talent Development – BEST Award.
  • FORTUNE – 500 list of America’s largest corporations
  • Bloomberg Markets – Top 20 of the World’s Strongest Banks
  • Greenwich Associates – 22 Greenwich Excellence Awards in Small Business and Middle Market Banking