Rodney Shepard, a former top officer with Arvest Bank operations in the Fort Smith area, is returning to be the new president and CEO of Arvest Bank of Fort Smith. He is now the head of Arvest Bank operations in Springfield, Mo., and will begin his new role on June 1.
Shepard spent 17 years working in the Fort Smith area banking business prior to his promotion in January 2011 to Springfield.
“We are looking forward to having Rodney back in the Fort Smith community,” Arvest Bank regional executive Cliff Gibbs said in a statement. “He played a vital role during his tenure in Fort Smith prior to leading the team in Springfield. Rodney understands the Arvest culture and will hit the ground running upon his return to the community that he loves and supports.”
Shepard has been busy in Springfield. He has led the growth of Arvest in what is a relatively new market for the bank. The growth included six new branch banks for a total of 13 in the market. Staff at the bank also doubled during his tenure, according to Arvest.
Arvest Bank operates more than 260 bank branches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas through a network of 16 locally managed banks, each with its own board and management team. These banks operate in more than 120 communities.
FAMILY TIES, ECONOMIC FACTORS
Shepard told The City Wire that the decision to return to Fort Smith was tough because his family had grown to love the Springfield area. However, he and his wife Lisa have a majority of their families living in the Fort Smith area. The family ties were a big part of the decision, he said. Shepard and his wife have two children.
“We like this area up here. This is really a great place to live. We had settled, found a good church, really got involved in the community up here, but at the end of the day, when that opportunity opened up, the family piece was part of the decision for us to come back,” Shepard explained.
Shepard also acknowledged that part of his decision involved an economic comparison of the two regions. The Springfield metro area has a larger nonfarm labor force (202,4000 as of March 2014) than the Fort Smith area (116,600 as of March 2014). Also, the Springfield metro area jobless rate has been at or below 7% for more than two years, with several months during that period of monthly jobless rates below 6%. The March rate was 6.1%. Prior to March, the Fort Smith metro area had 62 consecutive months that the jobless rate was at or above 7%. The March rate fell to 6.9%.
“It did,” Shepard said when asked if the relative weakness of the Fort Smith area was a factor in the decision. “It is true that Springfield has a healthier economy. ... But as I visited with our (Fort Smith area bank) directors, I asked them about the economy ... and they feel positive about Fort Smith’s outlook.”
Shepard said his positive economic outlook is based on the Fort Smith region having good infrastructure – rail, roads, waterway, air – in place.
Also, Arvest has a larger customer base and operations in the Fort Smith area than it now does in the Springfield market. Shepard said that was a draw for him, too.
“But this (Springfield) is a great place to live ... and at some point I believe our company will have a larger operation here and will continue to grow here. This has been a wonderful experience here, and I hate to leave, but I think that everyone understands,” Shepard said.
Shepard earned an associate’s degree from Carl Albert State College, a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University and a master’s degree from Webster University. He also is a graduate of the Mid South School of Banking and completed the ABA Commercial Lending School, and Graduate School of Banking program at Louisiana State University. Carl Albert State College also honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
During his time in Springfield, Shepard served on the board of directors for the Missouri Bankers Association, United Way of the Ozarks, and the Public Utilities for the City of Springfield. He is a graduate of the Leadership Springfield program and a member of the Springfield Southeast Rotary Club.
Shepard was active in the Fort Smith area during his previous time there. Groups with which he worked with include the Single Parent Scholarship Fund, advisory council for Young Emerging Leaders of the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce, a council member for the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, River Front Blues Society, Fort Smith Area United Way, and the Old Fort River Festival. He also is a graduate of Leadership Fort Smith.