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A CEO’s Vision: The Driving Forces Behind Fifth Third Bank’s Rise as Leading on Innovation and Sustainability

By 3p Editors
Fifth Third

Greg D. Carmichael received the 2021 Responsible CEO of the Year for Community Impact for his exceptional leadership and dedication to Fifth Third Bank's significant impact on the communities it serves.

While staying true to Fifth Third Bank’s vision to be the “one bank people most value and trust,” the company’s core values, its customer-centric approach and its financial discipline have undergone even more of a transformation over the past five years under Greg D. Carmichael’s leadership.

Fast forward from November 2015, when Carmichael became the company’s CEO, to this year: Fifth Third, now the ninth-largest U.S.-based consumer bank, is widely recognized as one of the most innovative and sustainability-focused banks.

Carmichael is guided by his vision of “Doing Well by Doing Good,” which he has continued to communicate internally among all employees of the bank; and he’s said so repeatedly to stakeholder groups including the wider financial sector and community partners, and done so through both traditional and social media.

His strong leadership has guided the company’s c-suite and he still goes out of his way to rally all of Fifth Third’s employees behind his vision. Carmichael believes in commitments, takes accountability and seeks to lead by example.

Carmichael’s drive has been evidenced by his commitment to the local communities the bank services, a pledge that dates back to 2016. Fifth Third recently delivered $41.6 billion in various community commitments, surpassing its 2016 pledge to better serve its communities with a comprehensive $32 billion, five-year plan, which to date is the largest such project announced by a regional bank. By the end of 2020, Fifth Third had over-delivered on its financial commitment by an impressive 30 percent.

“If you want something to be different, you’ve got to do different things,” said Carmichael during last month’s webcast of 3BL Media’s 2021 Responsible CEO of the Year Awards. “So, making a large community commitment, the largest of any of the regional banks, was something we wanted to do because it was meaningful. Establishing that purpose was fundamentally important that we get that out there.”

Included in these plans includes funds for funding environmental sustainability projects, investments in renewables, dovetailing with six broad goals for diversity and inclusion. Transparency is important to Carmichael and Fifth Third: It was among the first banks to disclose diversity data, and more recently it has ranked within the top quartile of financial institutions that disclose ESG reporting.

“If you’re not transparent, I don’t believe that you are going to buy the trust from the organization to be successful, Carmichael said. “Transparency is fundamental to delivering any objective, and that transparency leads into accountability.”

In a similar way by which Carmichael has developed the people and organization under his leadership, he has also instilled the systems and processes necessary to set the strategic direction to allocate scarce resources. This approached has bolstered Fifth Third’s determination to have the operating infrastructure to deliver on its ESG commitments.

As his colleagues say, by leading with intention, Carmichael has ensured that skills and capabilities exist within the organization to deliver on the company’s ESG strategy. He has led by defining the key attributes of Fifth Third’s culture, and has modeled them as such while empowering his team to deploy and lead initiatives that have pushed Fifth Third toward this aspiration.

“There is real value in sustainability. The term sustainability often is associated with environmental policy, but it’s more than that to us,” Carmichael wrote in the company’s 2019 ESG report. “We have an eye on sustainability with every business decision we make. Building sustainable, scalable programs, products and services is how we have a transformative, generational impact on our communities.”

A replay of the awards ceremony can be viewed here.

Image credit: Fifth Third Bank via Facebook, Twitter

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TriplePundit editors offer news and insights on sustainable business.

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