SunTrust’s Savannah City President Proud to Serve 40 Years

Shawndra Russell

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Kay Ford has been the SunTrust Savannah president for seven years and will mark four decades with the bank this year. Although her roles have fluctuated over the years, one thing has remained true – her loyalty to serving the Savannah area. Ford is a Savannah native, born and raised in Garden City. Living in “The Hostess City” her whole life has given her a unique perspective on the banking needs of residents. Her pride in the beauty and culture of Savannah is evident within minutes of chatting with her.

"I feel lucky to work in Savannah’s beautiful downtown. Being from this community, volunteering is in my blood, so I started giving back at a very early age. I have always been very proud of Savannah and have watched it grow and change. I remember when Broughton Street was the only place to shop, but now we’ve seen the revitalization of downtown. When I sit back and look at what the city has accomplished, I hope I’ve helped. I hope I’ve touched someone [for the] betterment of the community,” Ford says.

With a 40-year history serving the Savannah area, Ford has certainly affected numerous lives through her work and SunTrust’s involvement in the community. “At SunTrust, we’re attacking our community involvement on several fronts. For instance, we’re very involved in Junior Achievement and also offer free financial courses for folks in the community at Mercer Medical School. In these courses we teach about budgeting, credit, the importance of managing student loans and other topics important to helping individuals gain a sense of confidence and control over their finances,” she says.

Ford herself has instructed some of these courses and has been impressed with the questions asked. “When people are not involved in the financial industry, there are a lot of things they don’t necessarily understand.  We are having more in-depth conversations, all focused on trying to help individuals gain a sense of confidence and control over their finances, which will ultimately make the community we live in a better place.” 

Her longevity with the company means she’s seen it all, but what has stood out most about the Savannah community is peoples’ perseverance. “Being a part of the bank and all of the regulatory changes has been interesting. The last few years have been about leadership with people both in and out of banking. In the beginning of the financial downturn, we were very focused on helping people pull things together,” Ford explains. “As the economy has gotten better, we’ve gone to the next step as a bank to focus on the financial future of our clients. We sit down and talk to our clients about their plans and offer options to show them how they can accomplish their goals. Now, we’re seeing movement in a lot of areas.” 

Helping customers weather the financial storm is a proud accomplishment of Ford’s, but she’s quick to give her team credit. “One of the reasons we’ve been successful is because of our key local leadership. We are fully engaged with our clients and interested in their success,” Fords says. 

SunTrust’s volunteer council has also been key in achieving goals. “We focus on projects we want to do in the community and then we vote on it and pick three big ones. It facilitates camaraderie, and we all come out to volunteer on a workday. SunTrust has been very supportive allowing us to have these built-in volunteer days.” 

Another source of pride for Ford is SunTrust’s new tool, SummitView, which focuses on wealth management. “We’re really excited about this tool. It helps us map out a plan for our clients and gives us the ability to establish goals for them. Sometimes goals compete against one another, so this web-based tool allows clients to quickly evaluate all kinds of scenarios so they can make informed decisions. For instance, they can change their priorities and instantly see how the changes affect the overall plan. We’re talking to clients about what they want to accomplish in their lifetime, the legacy they want to leave and when they should and should not retire.” 

Currently, the real-time tool is available on a client-by-client basis and is used interactively with advisors. “SummitView also has a feature where you can aggregate documents, so you can scan important documents like your passport knowing it’s in a safe place that you can access anytime,” explains Ford.

After 40 years, Ford attributes her willingness to be nimble and adapt to innovative changes like SummitView as key to her rise in the company. “You have to make up your mind to get on the ship. Every time we’ve experienced change, I’ve always wanted to be one of the first ones on that boat. I’ve been very loyal because they’ve been very loyal,” Ford says, adding, “Of course, you have to produce and stay on top to become a leader. But I can honestly say I have never had the Sunday evening blues. I’ve always enjoyed what I did every day.” 

Shawndra Russell is a writer and social media educator for businesses, professionals and college students with the intent of stopping outdated me! me! me! marketing. Her latest works are 51 Ways to Help Your Social Media Manager Crush It! And How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days. Read about her services and projects at and connect with her on Twitter and Google+.