Bank of America's Donnie Cook on the Value of Classroom Economics

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 12:00 am  

Donnie Cook

Donnie Cook has more than 40 years of experience in banking. He’s the Arkansas state president and Little Rock market president for Bank of America as well as its senior client manager in its Commercial Bank Specialized Industries Division, overseeing the development of nonprofit, religious and health care clients.

Cook attended the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and various Bank Administration Institute educational courses. He serves on the boards of Economics Arkansas and Fifty for the Future and is a senior board member of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Arkansas and a member of the War Memorial Stadium Commission.

He became BOA’s top executive in Arkansas on Jan. 23.

How is representing a big national bank in a middle-sized urban area like central Arkansas different from representing a locally chartered institution?

During my banking career, I’ve worked for both a locally chartered bank and a national bank. Whether working for the former Worthen Bank or Bank of America, the one thing I’ve found that has never changed is the need to always take care of the customer. No matter what the size of the institution, the customer must be your No. 1 priority. Our top focus today is improving our customers’ financial lives every day.

Where does BOA see banking business opportunity in Arkansas during the next couple of years?

With a number of our legacy issues resolved, we’re now focused on our primary business of taking care of our customers. Bank of America serves one out of every two households in the U.S., and our focus is to increase the amount of business we do with our existing customer base and to serve their banking needs.

You’ve been in banking a long time. What do you know now that you wish you’d known starting out?

Throughout my career, I’ve worked for some outstanding leaders in the Arkansas banking industry, men like Ed Penick, Bill Cravens, Curt Bradbury and Jack Fleischauer. Listening is something I now realize I wasn’t doing very well. With all the interactions I had with these men, the one thing I would have changed is to have listened more and not always tried to drive the conversation.

You serve on the board of Economics Arkansas, which tries to get economics and personal finance education into the classroom curriculum. Why is that program so important to you?

Economics Arkansas’ principal focus is to train K-12 teachers and provide programs to students in the classroom that help them learn everyday, real life personal finance skills. With programs like the Stock Market Game and Financial Fitness for Life, students are now being trained at an early age to be much better at managing their finances. Bank of America wants to help America’s children succeed. I believe that this curriculum creates a strong financial foundation for our youth.

You’ve had a successful career despite not having obtained a college degree. When you look at job candidates, how important are educational credentials? What are the most important qualities of a job candidate?

As state president, I don’t make the day-to-day hiring decisions of positions in Arkansas. These responsibilities fall to the managers of our individual lines of business. I can tell you that educational achievement is one of the main criteria we consider when we are hiring. Years ago, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree were considered the standard, but many of our jobs today now require a master’s degree.

Did you send your children to college?

Yes. While we encouraged them to pursue a college education, we ultimately left that decision up to them.



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