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Welcome to Beyond the Bank

By on Feb 3, 2016 in People | 1 comment

In this blog, we’ll explore the people and events that make the area of the country served by Simmons Bank such an interesting place to live, work and play. Our writers will be on the road across Simmons Country in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee to find stories of interest. It might be a successful high school football team. It might be a restaurant that has been operating for more than 50 years. It might be a volunteer who is considered the heart and soul of his or her community. We hope you find the stories fun to read, and we solicit your feedback.

Simmons Bank Culture Cornerstones

By on May 10, 2017 in Business | 0 comments

Jena Compton had corporate culture on her mind well before she took the job as Simmons Bank’s chief people officer. “It was one of the first things I asked about in my interview,” Compton says. Compton came to Simmons in September 2015 and began the process of developing five culture cornerstones that define the company. In June 2016, the cornerstones were unveiled: Integrity, passion, better together, pursue growth and high performance. An engagement survey later in the year revealed that 78 percent of associates polled agreed that the company is adhering to the cornerstones. “Every company has a culture,” Compton says. “The only question is whether or not it is what you want it to be. … We decided we wanted to be more thoughtful in determining the best culture for our people – who they are, what they believe in and what they can get behind.” Compton researched the cultural values of...

Go Forward Pine Bluff

By on May 3, 2017 in Business, Education, Events | 0 comments

A year of intense effort produced an ambitious plan for expanding the tax base of Pine Bluff, Ark., – the location of Simmons First National Corp.’s (Simmons) headquarters – and halting population loss. The Go Forward Pine Bluff initiative kicked off in late 2015. The planning effort was funded by Simmons through a $300,000 donation to the Simmons First Foundation. George Makris, Jr., Simmons’ chairman and chief executive officer, said at the time: “We’re hopeful that the Go Forward Pine Bluff process will help pinpoint how to direct our efforts more effectively.” The planning initiative was led by Tommy May, the former Simmons CEO who now heads the foundation. During 2016, volunteers from across the city came together to draw up an action plan, which will be implemented during the next two years. The four pillars of the plan are quality of life, education, economic development, and...

A Closer Look at Simmons Bank in Tennessee

By on Apr 26, 2017 in Business | 0 comments

John Clark and Paul Willson remember the days when deals were done with a handshake. “Back in the day, people would call on a Friday or even a Saturday morning and say, ‘Hey Paul, I need to buy a dump truck,’” Willson says. “’I’ve got a couple of other things I want to bid on. Can I bid up to $85,000 on it?’ We would just say, ‘Yes, go for it.’” The country has changed since Clark and Willson began their Tennessee banking careers more than four decades ago. It’s fitting that one of their final deals was a bit of a throwback, a deal based on trust and friendship. Clark was the president and chief executive officer of First State Bank of Union City, and Willson was the chairman and chief executive officer of Citizens National Bank at Athens. The two men, who had known each other for more than 20 years, had talked about a merger before Clark and his board decided First State should...

A Closer Look at Simmons Bank in Missouri and Kansas

By on Apr 19, 2017 in Business | 0 comments

Key acquisitions, organic growth and improved efficiency made for a good year in 2016 in Simmons Bank’s Missouri/Kansas region, according to Gary Metzger, the region’s chairman. “Asset quality remains strong, and our loan pipeline continues to grow,” Metzger says. “We were able to lower our cost of funds, and we continue to work hard to enhance our net interest margin. In 2016, we lowered our cost of funds by focusing our growth in transactional accounts. The growth in transactional accounts gave us a more favorable mix of deposits. Our deposits increased, and the cost of the deposits decreased.” Metzger says the region benefited from the recent addition of Karen Karwoski. She joined Simmons in October 2016 as a senior vice president of treasury management in the St. Louis market, but the entire footprint benefited from her knowledge. “We were successful in recruiting a strong,...

A Closer Look at Simmons Bank in Arkansas

By on Apr 12, 2017 in Business | 0 comments

The second half of 2015 saw major changes in Simmons Bank’s Arkansas region. Freddie Black of Lake Village, the Arkansas regional chairman, and the bank’s community presidents spent 2016 instituting new procedures and building additional customer relationships across the state. Black became the Arkansas regional chairman in the summer of 2015 and hired community presidents in two key markets. Rodney West in Fort Smith and Greg Martin in northwest Arkansas were hired on the same day in November 2015. “They’ve both done a great job,” Black says. “They spent 2016 putting their teams together. Both markets are showing really good loan growth. Those guys have roots in the communities where they work. We’re really pleased.” In Fayetteville, Martin dealt with the closure of one branch and the opening of another in a more strategic location. “There’s momentum in northwest Arkansas,” Black...

Q&A with Simmons Bank Chairman and CEO

By on Apr 5, 2017 in Business | 0 comments

The past four years have included major milestones in the illustrious history of Simmons Bank, founded in Pine Bluff, Ark., in 1903. George Makris, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Simmons First National Corp., recently discussed some of the things that occurred in 2016 and what he sees happening in the years ahead. Q / 2016 was a big year for Simmons’ mergers and acquisitions (M&A) program. Talk about Simmons’ M&A strategy and philosophy. A / We want to continue to expand our community banking network. We can do that in two ways. One is to look for M&A opportunities in markets where we already have a presence in order to gain additional market share. We prefer to find a good partner in those markets. You could see that in our acquisition of Citizens National Bank (Athens, Tenn.) and our pending acquisition of First South Bank (Jackson, Tenn.). The second way to...

Hot Springs Couple Sees Dream Come True With Community Radio Station Pizza Brewery Combo

By on Mar 17, 2017 in Business, Entertainment, Food | 0 comments

In 1999, Zachary Smith was sitting in a coffee shop eating and listening to other underemployed daytime philosophers think about media consolidation, conversation and ideas, and good food when he had an idea. His vision was to house a cafe and a community radio station under the same roof. While Smith traveled the world building skills, the idea stayed on the back burner. Smith and Cheryl Roorda, married in 2002, will see the vision come to life early this summer when they open SQZBX, a brewery and pizza joint in Hot Springs, Ark. The restaurant will be in the same historic building as solar powered community radio station KUHS-LP Hot Springs, 97.9 FM, which the couple has operated with Low Key Arts since 2015. “It was really just a dream,” Smith says. “But now almost 20 years later, here we are.” The building is downtown on Ouachita Avenue. On one side is the broadcast booth and some...

Longtime Union City Superintendent in Final Semester of Career

By on Mar 1, 2017 in Education | 0 comments

Gary Houston can relate to what the members of the Union City High School senior class in Union City, Tenn., are going through.  They’re counting the days before a major new period in their lives, and Houston is doing the same.  Houston announced in late 2016 that this would be his final school year after serving as superintendent for 20 years.  “I know what those seniors are experiencing,” he says. “It’s the reality of the second semester starting and knowing you won’t pass this way again.”  Houston, 65, has worked in education for 43 years, including 39 as an administrator. His wife retired from the district as a high school English teacher three years ago.  “People sometimes talk about athletes staying in a sport too long,” Houston says. “I don’t think I’m there yet, but I don’t want people to say, ‘Is that old man still there?’ We’ve accomplished some really good things. I say ‘we’...