Celebrating... The Women of Arvest Bank in Northwest Arkansas

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Last month, we had the opportunity to launch a monthly blog series celebrating the women of Northwest Arkansas. This month we specifically spent some time getting to know the women of Arvest Bank. The story of Arvest is one of commitment started by it's founders, with an intense dedication to focusing on the customer above all else. This philosophy has remained the same during their growth from a small bank to a network of community banks able to provide a complete range of financial services.

Today Arvest has more than 270 locations that are part of 16 locally managed banks in more than 120 communities. According to the FDIC, total assets now exceed $14 billion, making Arvest the largest bank in Arkansas.
Not only has their success in lending and financial services set the bar for Northwest Arkansas, but they also embrace and celebrate diversity in the workplace in such a way that inspires businesses all over Arkansas to follow in their footsteps.  Last year, we were able to sit down with Lisa Ray, President/CEO of Arvest Bank Springdale for our kibitz chat series.  We were so inspired by her story of leadership that it only made sense to capture more of the essence of the women of Arvest Bank and learn more about their experiences in working for the largest bank in Arkansas.

Meet some of their amazing leaders that make us so incredibly proud for our community!

 

[caption id="attachment_4225" align="alignleft" width="209"]Jenny Stinchcomb, Executive Vice President/Sales Manager Jenny Stinchcomb, Executive Vice President/Sales Manager[/caption]

Tell us about the road that led you to your current position...

I began my banking career with The Farmers and Merchants Bank, Prairie Grove in 1980, where I held an entry level position in the bookkeeping department and advancing to administrative assistant.  Arvest purchased The Farmers and Merchants Bank in 1992 and immediately became a loan assistant.  I shortly advanced to loan operations department manager, then deposit operations manager, and  eventually sales manager in 1995.

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by the work ethic instilled in me by my parents.  They were very supportive and modeled the value of always doing the best job possible in every situation.

What is it like to work for a company like Arvest?

Arvest is a great company to work for.  They are focused on providing a great environment in which to work.  Arvest recognizes and promotes associates based on skills and abilities without discriminating.

 

[caption id="attachment_4234" align="alignright" width="210"]Lorrie_Madden_small Lorrie Madden, President - Security Bankcard Center[/caption]

Tell us about your personal career journey...

My career in financial services began in 1981, after graduating from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with a bachelor of arts degree in Economics.  I started as a teller at a small savings & loan near my hometown in Michigan.  I took off one semester from school and then started studying for my M.B.A.  Six years later, having taken night classes while working full-time in progressively responsible positions, I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with concentration in Marketing and Human Resources from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.  Having worked through various branch banking positions including branch manager, I took a risk and applied for a newly created position of Division Finance Officer at the regional savings bank where I worked.  I spent a year in that role, supporting the Division President with financial and performance analysis and reporting, when I was asked to move to headquarters in Buffalo, NY to manage the Division Finance Officers across the 6-state territory for the bank.  In spite of knowing that the bank was not performing well, I took the risk and moved to Buffalo.  A year later, the bank was sold in the largest RTC (Resolution Trust Corporation) transaction at the time.  From there, I took the risk by accepting the position of Branch Administrator for a small community bank in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York (about 25 miles SW of Syracuse).  The 3 years I spent in that position  proved to be the most significant move in my career at the time.  I completed graduate banking school during those 3 years, and learned to be a senior manager.  From there, I moved again to Nashville, TN (by way of Jersey City, NJ) and ultimately landed with another regional bank in Nashville for 7 years until it was sold. To coin an expression from Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, my career resembled a ‘jungle gym’ more than a ‘ladder’, as I took a step backward financially and responsibility, when I joined the Nashville bank.  Sometimes one has to take a step backward or to the side (laterally) to move forward.  I took another risk and started a consulting practice to design reward/recognition/incentive plans, and was developing the business over 10 months when I was recruited by another regional bank in Montgomery, AL to be their Retail Banking Director.  I took the risk and accepted that challenge and relocated again for 3 years.  This was another huge career step for me – the position reported to C-level managers (COO, CFO), giving me another perspective on banking and business.  A family requirement caused me to relocate to NW Arkansas as Sales Manager with Arvest in Rogers.  This lateral-to-somewhat-downward move (on that jungle gym again) in my career provided an opportunity to hone my community involvement and commitment skills.  After 10 years as Sales Manager, I was asked to consider my current position, which required another relocation.  I took the risk and accepted the position, and am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to serve in a different role and different line of business.

Why is it important to celebrate being a woman in today's workplace?

Having grown up in business through the late-‘70’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, I have lived through the growth and development of women in the workplace.  When I started my career, women were expected to look like and act like our male counterparts just to be considered for leadership positions.  Those were the days of blue suits and white blouses, hosiery and pumps.  Now, 30+ years later, women have a greater opportunity to participate at higher levels in the workplace.  Women have more choices, and it is really up to us to continue our growth in the workplace.  Women are much better at supporting one another in the workplace, as compared to the highly competitive and often ‘alone-ness’ (not loneliness) of the business world.  We are accepted and respected more than any time in the history of my career.  It is critically important to celebrate women in business to support and encourage the futures of the young women and girls who will follow us.

What would you tell the next generation of women entering the workforce?

I would tell the next generation of women entering the workforce the same thing that I was told by my parents – you can do anything you set your mind to do.  I have a personal mission to help others achieve more than they ever thought that they could, borne from some career and life experiences early in my career.  I found that being prepared for the next opportunity – whether that is with a current employer or the next employer – has served me well.  It takes hard work, willingness to take risks at whatever level of risk tolerance your ‘gut’ will allow, and understanding that we all have ‘seasons of life’ that will require different levels of professional commitment and availability.  Look ahead, but not too far ahead – be sure to be the best you can be at whatever you are doing now.  If you do that, the future will take care of itself.

 

[caption id="attachment_4236" align="alignleft" width="272"]Gaye Wilcox EVP/Sales Manager Gaye Wilcox, EVP/Sales Manager[/caption]

Tell us about your career with Arvest...

I've worked for Arvest for 33 years.  I started in an operations area and have worked in several positions since that time - Human Resources, Bank Accounting, Arvest Asset Management, Branch Management, Consumer Lending.   I've had many wonderful managers and mentors.  Then in 2004, I became the Sales Manager for Arvest – Fayetteville where I have been for the past 11 years.

What has been one of the most rewarding experiences you have faced in your career?

At Arvest, we believe in giving back to our community.  As a Manager at Arvest, it’s especially important for me to set a strong example in this area.  I’ve volunteered in many areas over the years and have served on a non-profit Board in the past.   In 2009, I joined the Board of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County.  For the past several years, I've been the Board President.   Habitat's mission is to give a hand up in helping people obtain a safe affordable place to call home.  The joy on families faces as they see their dream of becoming a homeowner come true is something that is truly a lovely, rewarding sight to see.   Habitat of Washington County is made up of a caring staff, involved Board, and the most wonderful volunteers.  We all have the same mission to do what we can to help families realize this dream that may not have been able to otherwise.   

Who inspires you?

My mom has been a strong inspiration to me.  She's one of the hardest working people I know.  From a young age, she instilled strong work ethics and a sense of responsibility in my brothers and I.    She loves her family and friends in a fierce way and would do anything she could to help others.  My daughter, at age 21, is also a great inspiration to me.   She’s creative, intelligent and pushes herself to do her best.   She inspires me to stretch myself and to take better care of myself.

What would you tell the next generation of women entering the workforce?

Be confident and don't be afraid to put yourself out there.  Evaluate yourself and ask others to do the same.  Work on improving weaknesses in both personal and work life situations.  Surround yourself with good mentors and learn from them.  Work hard and be dependable.   Take care of yourself and of your teammates.  Strive to do the right thing every time.  When you make a mistake, own up to it and learn from it.  Have fun and do what you enjoy.

 

[caption id="attachment_4238" align="alignright" width="225"]julie small Julie Shook, Executive Vice President, Sales Manager[/caption]

Tell us about the road that led you to your career with Arvest.

I started working for Arvest at the age of 17.  Arvest was just opening a bank in the area I lived so they were looking for part time associates.  They contacted our local school looking for strong business oriented students/associates and my business teacher recommended I apply.  I was hired as a Financial Services Representative in 1994 and helped open Arvest’s first In Store branch in Berryville, AR.  I have worked forArvest for 21 years, always on the retail deposit side of the bank.   I have spent the last 17 years in sales and management.  I fully believe in our company’s mission statement of “People helping people find financial solutions for life” and enjoy fulfilling that commitment each and every day.  I have a passion for growing and developing associates and have had the ability to do this throughout majority of my career.

Why is it important to celebrate being a woman in today's workplace?

Being a woman in today’s workplace is so important and a constant battle that so many women face.  For me personally, the battle has not been the same that a lot of women face.   The battle of how to climb the corporate ladder or the battle of how to be recognized in my organization has not been an issue.  Fortunately for me I have always worked for Arvest, which is a company that strongly promotes women in the workplace.  We have many leaders in our company and as I already mentioned, I have had the opportunity to be one for majority of my career.  The battle I face is that of work-life balance.  Many of my closest friends are stay at home mothers and thank goodness they are because I wouldn’t be able to work if they weren’t!  They are always there for me and my children.  Are there days I am jealous I am not a stay at home mother, sure there are.  However, I love what I do and could not imagine my life any other way!  I am a wife and a mother of two young children.  Keeping up with work and family activities can be overwhelming, but taking one day at a time, prioritizing, surrounding myself with friends and family is how I survive.

What is it like to work for a company like Arvest?

At Arvest it is all about our amazing culture!  Without the Arvest Culture being what it is, I would not have made it 21 years and counting!   From day one, I was welcomed into the Arvest Family with open arms.   The associates here truly care about each other.  We are like one big family.  With any family, there are ups and downs, but the great thing is we stick by each other’s sides during those ups and downs and that is exactly what I have always witnessed at Arvest.  The kind of support and encouragement we all give to one another is indescribable.  It isn’t something we have to try at, it just happens.   As I mentioned, I was only 17 when I began my career with Arvest and from my first manager to my current manager, I have ALWAYS felt supported yet challenged to do my best.  The managers here truly care about their associates.  Expectations are high, yet they are attainable.  I often hear Arvest described as a fun, happy place to work and I would completely agree with that statement.  While it is a fun, happy place, it is also a very professional place with an extremely high standard for providing exceptional service inside and out.  A big smile is part of our culture.  It is what is expected.  It isn’t something we have to try at, it just happens.  If you call an associate on the phone or walk into any branch, I would be highly surprised if you were not greeted with a friendly smiling voice.  So you might ask again, what is it like working for a company like Arvest?  It means my world.  It is who I am.  It is who has made me who I am today.  A strong, friendly, caring professional, who cares about making a difference in the lives of those I come into contact with each and every day.

What would you tell your younger self, if you had to do it all over again?

Have fun, work extra hard, always do the right thing, believe in yourself, be willing to accept criticiism and don’t be afraid to share your ideas!

Last modified onTuesday, 15 March 2016 13:25