President's Note



David Marks - Arvest Bank
Chapter President

1Q2016
 

2016 is shaping up to be another great year of chapter programming and event opportunities.  In May, we offer our Cyber Threat / Data Security Panel Discussion, featuring great panelists and a unique, highly talented moderator.  June brings our Annual Charity Golf Tournament held at the Maumelle County Club.  September will bring our Annual Signature Event, to be announced live on May 12 at the Cyber Threat Panel.  We are offering several new and fun education training classes this year in both Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas.

 

Our Board of Directors continues to be comprised of volunteers who give their time, energy and focus to promote RMA and this chapter.  I never let a moment go by that I do not offer thanks and appreciation for the volunteer board.  I think there is one area however that maybe I’ve not given enough credit and recognized often enough.  If not for the employers of these great board members allowing them to participate and supporting their associates efforts, often monetarily as well as in-kind, it would be impossible to operate.  Please let me take a moment to thank the financial institutions, accounting firms, attorney firms, and even our self-employed member.  Without your steadfast support, this chapter would not be as successful and vibrant.  We appreciate you and your generosity.  Salute!

 
4Q2015
 

Everybody always talks about the ‘After Party’ being more fun than the main event. Whether it is the Academy Awards, the Emmy’s, the American Music Awards or local affairs such as Saints & Sinners, Diamond Chef or many more, lots of folks look forward to the ‘After Party’. September 17 our RMA Chapter was proud to host Frank Keating. The luncheon was presented by Friday, Eldredge & Clark and you can revisit in pictures on pages 6 - 11. While there was no ‘After Party’ following the luncheon, there was a ‘Welcome Dinner’ the evening before.  Held at Sonny Williams Steak House in the River Market District of the Capital City, our presenting sponsor and top chapter board officers joined together for an engrossing evening with Governor Keating.  Thanks to the generosity of Gary Edwards / BKD LLP for sponsoring the dinner, we had a lengthy, relaxing dinner where Keating held court as only he can. 

Some of us have worked for people whose own disingenuous delusions of grander far exceeded their pedigree. During these precious dinner hours, there were no false stories of bravado, no spin on the facts or reinventing history. Instead and completely refreshing, was the generosity and confidence of a man who really has been many places; who really has walked the hallowed hallways in the public, private and governmental worlds. 

Keating relayed stories of the White House,  the Governorship of Oklahoma during a terrorist attack, meeting Bill Clinton decades before he became President, inter-acting with the top leaders of the largest banks in the United States and much more. Keating explained his vision for the future challenges in the financial services world and it looks a lot like what we are experiencing - cyber / data security, compliance and regulatory threats with continued industry consolidation.  He was quick to give credit to others, was self-depreciating in speaking about himself and had an enviable liveliness & energy level about him. Thank you, Mr. Keating!

 
3Q2015

When managing people, leading a group or responsible for a team project, the old time-worn adage tells you to get ‘everybody on the bus.’ Alas, many of you may have found out the hard way that getting your folks on the bus is the easy part.  Being able to inspire, lead and direct everybody on the bus to travel in the same direction, at the same time to complete the same mission -  that is the art of management.  It is applicable to the professional world, family life or even to leading a volunteer organization.  These fundamental truths are rarely touched on in traditional training.  I implore you to carefully study the mission.  It is not enough in today’s world to know the goal and expect others to follow.  Right, wrong, or indifferent, you will likely find even the best, most dedicated of associates in an instant-feedback - always - ‘connected’ world have a million ideas how to do it better, or only care about ‘what is in it for me.’

Forewarned is forearmed.  With this knowledge, you have the opportunity to preplan. Think carefully.  Let me recommend you spend less time on your personal perspective, viewpoint and values and a lot more on the individuals you are required to lead.  Put yourself in their shoes for more than a moment.  See the task, duty, mission or goal through their eyes.  This sounds complex, but really is not.  If you are in a position of management, leadership or responsibility, then you have likely also been in a non-leadership role previously.  While some are indeed provided a ‘silver spoon’ or put in a position with no experience, that is a story for another day.  For the purpose of this exercise we are going to assume you have come up through the ranks and arrived at your position based on merit.

Do you remember all those boring meetings you sat in where you asked yourself ‘why am I here?’  What about all of the ‘dumb decisions’ that were made without your input?  When you were a member of the ‘rank-and-file’ you knew exactly what you would do if you were the manager.  Guess what?  It is time to earn those stripes once again.  You are the leader now and you are also what a small part of you   previously envied. 

See the world through the eyes of your associates and you will be able to anticipate objections, road blocks, risks and threats.  Having put a little thought into things from this perspective will allow you the opportunity to prepare to be successful.  Work out anticipated questions with prepared, non-condescending solutions.  Be positive.  Listen when applicable.  Sometimes your associates will indeed have a better way to build the mousetrap.  You will learn that you don’t always have every answer.  Always take time to listen and consider if another way is a better way.  Do not let your ego get in the way of success.  There are many ‘right’ ways of doing something.

Finally, remember to give credit to others when credit is due.  Always remember this.  Share the spotlight if applicable.  Your team will respect you a great deal more.

 
2Q2015

Are you taking the time to be a Mentor to a colleague or subordinate? Do you look forward to assisting, helping to build an associates confidence and ability? Do you take a personal interest in the professional development of another? Are you sincere and give your very best even when it seems there might not be an immediate, tangible, direct benefit for yourself?

If you don’t, then I want to encourage you to consider the many rewards for getting started.  If you answered ‘yes’ to the above questions then congratulations to you because mentorship seems to have fallen on the back burner for the past decade or so. There are many reasons why, from industry consolidation to the nature of employee turnover, from the focus on ‘making the numbers’ to folks not being taught early on to help others on the long climb up the ladder.

Being a mentor to another is one of the most fulfilling experiences I have enjoyed in my 20+ years as a banker. Early on, and mid-way through my career, I greatly benefited from being mentored. Up through the ranks, from teller to manager to lender, I was fortunate to have dedicated mentors of high quality. I always appreciated this a great deal.  In turn, I would always look for ways to give back, to provide to others the same life and industry lessons I had been fortunate to learn and experience.

It amazes me to this day the number and variety of associates I have worked with who seek me out for advice, want to bounce a career decision off of me, or simply want my opinion on a credit or personnel decision. I tell everybody the same thing; my advice is worth what you pay for it, but I will always listen carefully, maintain confidence and provide an opinion or possible resolution.

One thing you must always remember is sometimes your professional interest and those of the person you mentor may cross paths.  This is to be expected and there is nothing wrong with this. I am as competitive as the next person, very competitive in fact, but I do not ever want to win over the crushed back of a mentee. Do the right thing every time and you don’t have to worry about what you did. Remember to maintain complete confidence, never share outside this confidence and don’t even think about ‘letting a little something slip.’

Another important thing about being an effective and valued mentor is to never worry about ‘what’s in it for me?’ If you are good enough, if you make the right decisions, what’s in it for you will take care of itself.  Besides, one of the most fulfilling phone calls I receive is from folks I hired or promoted at one time or worked with at a previous institution, when they say they won a big deal, earned that promotion or simply want to say ‘thanks.’ Some rewards you simply cannot place a price upon.

Once in my career, I went for a period of several years with only sporadic or even non-existent mentorship for myself. Those years were less productive and enjoyable. Fortunately, I still had a collection of mentee’s which provided fulfillment. Currently, things are looking strong in the mentorship role and I’m very appreciative of some new challenges in my career.


1Q2015

Do you surround yourself with the most talented, driven professionals you can find, or do you feel more comfortable hiring people you know are not as talented as yourself? Per-haps you take the time to interview, recruit and search until you find candidates who are every bit your equal, and in some cases even smarter than yourself. Alas, many hiring managers choose the path of least resistance, lowest threat or simply are not smart enough to recognize the top candidates available.

Having been a hiring manager at a couple of banking institutions, including both a community, family owned bank and a large national mega bank, I do have a great deal of experience in this field. One thing I found that separated some of the most successful leaders and managers from the less successful was their ability to recognize, recruit and develop great associates. Unfortunately, some managers let their personal feelings and internal insecurities control the hiring, and promotion process. I have observed and inquired with both highly successful and margin-ally successful managers about their values and decision making process.

Some of these managers mean well, want to do good and try real hard. It seems like they are always stressed, over worked and about to crack up half the time. These folks are unable to ‘let it go.’ You hire and train a person to do the job. By golly let them have an opportunity to do the job. Mistakes will be made on occasion, but what successful manager has never made a mistake? Use these as opportunities to learn and grow. I used to tell my retail staff that it is unlikely they could not make a mistake that I myself had not done at one time, but the important thing is to learn from it and simply not make the same mistake again.

Other managers who struggle or maybe are too self-conscious or easily threatened, will only hire and promote either their friends / ‘click buddies,’ or worse yet will only hire ‘B’ or ‘C’ Talent. Why would a manager ever hire any-thing less than an ‘A’? According to successful author Jeffrey J Fox of the ‘How to Become…’ series ‘A’ Managers only hire the best, cream of the crop ‘A’ talent. However, he warns, a ‘B’ or ‘C’ manager will always hire at a level similar or even below. Now imagine for a minute a ‘B’ manager hiring a level below would result in an influx of ‘C’ talent. This happens each and every day and can cripple your team.

One of my favorite sayings when I worked as a hiring manager of a single countywide location in an important, growing area for a large mega bank was, “I only want to hire talent that is better than myself.” I wanted self-starters who are team oriented players who have a fire, drive and ambition to equal or exceed my own. Sometimes this resulted in a great deal of interviewing and reference checking, but in the end, I was able to assemble one of the most amazing teams.

I recently thought about that dream team crew and what fun it was working hard together. They call it work for a reason, but at the end of the day everybody benefits from the right hire. Sometimes it takes just a little extra effort to be great. Put in the time to pick up the dime!


4Q2014

They say when one door closes, another door opens. But what do you do if neither or both happens? Sometimes you are faced with important decisions, but you don’t have all the information you would like to have. How do you make a decision? How do you know when to make a decision? Many bankers are wired to ‘play it safe, be conservative, don’t risk anything’. In this business that is often good thinking. All of these concerns are applicable to many business and personal scenarios.

Once when I faced a difficult career decision regarding whether to stay in a job where I was a very experienced top performer, but also maxed out, I had to decide whether to pursue a new opportunity or play it safe. Over lunch one day my Regional President, lets call him ’Bob’, summed up my situation very simply. He said ‘When you are presented with a door, you open it to see what is inside. You don’t have to go inside, but you need to at least look.’

I asked him why he was insistent that I should open the door. Was this his way of getting rid of me? He shook his head and explained that I was one of the best branch managers in the state for his entire 48 branch region. He added, ‘...but if you don’t look and see what is behind the door you will always wonder what might have been.’ This struck me as good advice. My Regional President added ‘You can look inside the door. It does not mean you have to leave and go inside.’

Time passes as time always does. I decided to remain where I was. He ‘retired’ a few months later. Around the same time another opportunity came my way, a much better one that more closely aligned with the road to my dream job. I jumped in with both feet and never looked back.

Sometimes you simply have to make a decision regardless if you know what the future holds or whether it is ‘safe’. Frankly, none of us are promised tomorrow. In today’s employment world you rarely know what twists and turns await you. Think carefully, collect all the data you can, pray and reflect. At the end of the day, there are times you simply have to make a decision regardless of the consequences or the amount of information you have. There are times that if all you are doing is standing pat, you may find out you are likely falling back.

3Q2014

At the end of the day the old cliché is still correct;  your word is your bond. No matter what else you bring to the table to benefit your employer, your client or your prospect, your good reputation, core values and follow-thru are yours. You might not have final approval authority on a credit decision, control over a regulatory caveat, autonomy to make a pricing decision, but by golly you do have control over whether your word is worth the breath you take.

Everybody involved in sales, underwriting, credit review, prospecting and management is under pressure to deliver more and more, each and every day. In today’s environment with many institutions chasing the same opportunities and the stakes being quarterly goals, earnings per share, incentive / bonus eligibility, one’s job status or even your institution’s survival, it can be all too easy to embellish. How easy is it to cut a corner, over-extend a promise, imply more authority than you have or say you can cut the rate on a quote? It happens every day.

I’ve talked with all sorts of bankers over the years who have achieved many extraordinary accomplishments. In visiting with the most successful many exhibit the same traits: self-starter, ability to multi-task, positive attitudes, intelligence, determination, willingness to listen and to learn from mistakes. There are some who from  time-to-time achieve short-lived fortune and fame. Sometimes those individuals get away with pushing the envelop a bit too far. Compromising your honesty and integrity even once is asking for trouble because you find it becomes easier to do so again. Perhaps a little fudging on the call report? It won’t hurt to pad the sales report will it? Take my neighbor to lunch on the company dime to make an impression? Perhaps seats at the big game for your buddies? That seems like a stupid regulation, nobody will know if you skip it - right? Wrong - the person in the mirror will be watching. Everyday, every evening, every time you fix your hair, adjust your tie or wash your face. The person in the mirror knows everything.

Maintain your core values at all costs. Remember to stand up for something, not get pushed aside for nothing. After everything else is over, after all the accounts are settled, your word is exclusively yours. It is your bond.

2Q2014

Change is a simple word. Just six letters comprised of four consonants and two vowels. It is neither precocious, nor adventurous. Yet for many people the word change sends shockwaves through the soul. It conveys many things to many people, but what it probably signifies to those who are the most troubled by change is the fear of the unknown.

There has been a great deal of change in our industry during the past several years, with new regulations, heightened scrutiny, new oversight entities and competition unlike anything we have seen. In this current political climate there is likely much more to come.

Looking at banking in Arkansas, we too are not immune from the winds of change. While the Natural State has shrugged off many of the failures which have plagued Florida, Georgia, Nevada and other areas of the country, we are be- ginning to see significant consolidation. Gone are several local stalwart community banks. Acquired by other larger in-state institutions with the appetite for growing, the Arkansas banking landscape is rife with change. There are a half dozen Arkansas-headquartered banks who are beginning to emerge as growth leaders within and outside the state.

Change is much more than the unknown. It is also opportunity. Embraced and made the most of, change has its place. The days of sitting on the sideline and waiting for business to walk in the door is long gone. The time where your longevity, tenure and experience alone was enough to ‘get by’ are over. Today is not ‘business as usual’ or ‘like it used to be.’ No, today is ‘business as unusual.’ Let me encourage you to continue to refine your craft, expand your knowledge through training and dust off your calling skills. Let me remind you that change is the only constant in the universal. Get on board the bus or prepare to be bowled over. Your friendly RMA Chapter can help. Cheers!


1Q2014

I am excited about our up-coming Women in Banking Luncheon and Panel Discussion on May 20 at the Clinton Presidential Center. Nearly three years in the making, this event has its original genesis in an idea I gathered from read-ing one of my favorite industry journals, the fine American Banker Magazine (then titled US Banker Magazine). I was intrigued by the cover headline ‘Most Powerful Women in Banking.’ I was immediately drawn into the series of articles presented within including the copious amounts of copy, extensive photo shoots, biographical in-formation and the general vibe, feel of the message.

I thought what a wonderful and meaningful Panel I wanted a mix of local and national panelists to participate in order to provide a wider view-point. Anybody who knows me knows that while I am a conservative person by nature, I do like to push the envelope on projects from time-to-time. I relish accomplishing what somebody tells me can’t be done.

I am very proud of the positive outpouring of sponsorship, panelist, moderator and host site support. I am also very proud of a chapter board that has banded together to tackle the largest project in our recent history.

This event represents a part of the core values that I treasure, the core beliefs that drive the person I strive to be. I was raised to believe in equality, to cherish diversity, to embrace change and to stand up for something important. We have a long way to go in the world, but we have also made significant, important strides forward. Please join us and show your support on May 20 for this special gathering.


4Q2013

One of the Signature Hall-marks of the Risk Management Association is Professional Education Training for the Financial Services Industry. Some of the big-gest challenges facing our industry today are regulatory restrictions, an uncertain economic outlook and a highly volatile competitive market where every institution chases the same customer and business opportunity. When times are tough, one of the first budget items banks traditionally cut is their investment in people; specifically training and development. What initially seems like an easy way to save a little cash can become the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Speak-ing of camels, doesn’t the ‘M’ in a CAMELS Rating stand for Management Quality?

Many of your bank’s senior management are beginning to age. Retirement is in the near future for some. What has your bank done to plan and prepare for this inevitability? Sometimes a Succession Plan is just a piece of paper to satisfy a regulator.

Fortunately, some of the industry’s most effective training is not as expensive as you might think. Central Arkansas RMA is proud to co-sponsor an aggressive, diverse slate of upcoming classes. Please review our Education Schedule at the end of this newsletter. RMA carefully selects every trainer, vets them carefully, continually monitors instructors and class feedback, while continually updating curriculums.

Please remember to invest in your associates, and in your institution, by signing up your best and brightest, your most promising key people, today. We cannot afford to wait until tomorrow. The future is happening right now.

3Q2013

The Central Arkansas Chapter of the Risk Management Association has enjoyed a terrific three year run thanks to your support, the support of your institution, and the efforts of our volunteer Board of Directors. Our member institutions and associate membership has grown year-over-year during this period. We have held more education training classes during the past three years than any other period in the past decade. Our luncheon events continue to grow in attendance, quality of food, and most importantly, quality of guest speaker. Your chapter has reached deep into our network of contacts and treasury in order to bring you exciting, informative guest speakers from Arkansas and across the country. We successfully revamped and re-launched our Golf Tournament at Maumelle Country Club.

While this success is gratifying, we are not resting on our laurels. Beginning this month and charging through 2014, we have the most amazing, aggressive line-up of upcoming chapter events, education training, luncheons and even a breakfast or two in chapter history. Our line-up of scheduled guest speakers contains authors, a professional improvement guru, a maverick Federal Reserve President and more, all veteran bankers.

Now is a great time to either stay involved or get involved for the first time. Ask your manager whether your institution is an RMA Institutional Member. If not just reach out to me for an exciting, affordable way to join. Another way to get involved is to join our Board of Directors. We are always recruiting and on the look-out for talented and motivated professionals who want to give a little of themselves and enjoy a lot of benefits. Drop me a line at: dmarks@arvest.com

Thank you to all of the bankers who completed the re-cent Education Survey. You were instrumental in our 2014 Class Schedule, plus one of you will earn a $50 Visa Gift Card in a drawing at our September 24 Luncheon. We have more exciting prizes in the future.


2Q2013


The Central Arkansas Chapter of the Risk Management Association is alive and well in Arkansas thanks to the support of bankers such as yourself who get involved, serve on our board, attend our luncheons, send your associates to our educational classes or volunteer your time at special events such as our Charity Golf Tournament. Right now is an exciting time to be a part of the Central Arkansas RMA Chap-ter as we experience a revitalizing renaissance.

2013 is off to a great start with the Hubbard Luncheon on May 2 and Lending to Municipalities held at Metropolitan National Bank on May 13. Look for new luncheon dates and class announcements in this newsletter.

We continue to work diligently to secure top-flight speakers. We are putting together a fantastic program line-up for the next 18 months. We are planning on bringing in a mix of local and national speakers. I look forward to sharing specifics in the near future. We plan on hosting another Banker Discussion Panel with a new group of respected banking legends in late 1Q2014.

Thanks to the efforts of Past President Karen Davidson and Treasurer Christine Miller for building our newly launched LinkedIn Group and Chapter Facebook Page. Details avail-able on Page 6.

We are launching two important Chapter Survey’s in the coming weeks for Education and Women in Banking. We need your input, ideas and inter-action. Page 4 contains all the details.

RMA HQ will celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 2014. Look for exciting celebrations planned throughout the coming year. The mission of RMA remains as important and as relevant today as it was a century ago.

I appreciate your feedback, commentary and ideas. Feel free to contact me: davidmarks@comcast.net or call 501-920-9696. I would enjoy hearing from you. Cheers!


1Q2013

Welcome to the 2nd Edition of ‘Checks & Balances’ our Chapter Newsletter! This edition reviews recent chapter events and previews of exciting opportunities in the near future. RMA is alive and well in Arkansas thanks to the support of bankers such as yourself who get involved, serve on our board, attend our luncheons, send your associates to our educational classes or volunteer your time at our special events such as the recent Banker Panel Discussion. Right now is an exciting time to be a part of the Central Arkansas RMA Chapter as we experience a revitalizing renaissance.

We anticipate 2013 to be filled with exciting luncheon meetings including the return of Jack Hubbard in May with an new presentation and some surprises. We have negotiated with the catering service at Clinton Center to provide terrific, tasty food for the lunch meetings. This started with our August Luncheon where Erik Elder of UALR provided com-mentary on the Arkansas Economy. We are working diligently to secure top-flight speakers and I look forward to sharing some terrific names in the near future. We plan on hosting two Special Events in 2013 including another top-flight, informative and entertaining Banker Discussion Panel with a new group of respected banking legends. Our board is actively working to com-pletely reorganize and re-launch our charity Golf Tournament in late Spring 2013. Look for an announcement about a tournament that really is ‘new and improved.’

2012 was a very successful year for our industry respected education training course. We hosted more courses, many not offered in Arkansas previously, than in recent years and attendance exceeded expectations. We even sold out some classes, beating a national trend in declining training.

We have a planned slate of educational offerings in 2013 that should satisfy many bankers. Please carefully review our Training Class preview list elsewhere in this newsletter. I do want to call your attention to June 2013 when we offer, for the 1st time ever in Arkansas, the prestigious and highly effective RMA Lending Academy I. Please save the date, talk to your manager about attending and get ready to learn lending from a 360 degree prospective. This in-depth, immersive course is great for either a beginner or an experienced lender.

If you would like to get involved with the chapter, have questions or want to provide feedback please feel free to contact me: davidmarks@comcast.com or call 501-920-9696. I would enjoy hearing from you. Cheers!