John Olaimey Tapped to Lead $1.1 Billion-Asset Southern Bancorp Bank

by George Waldon  on Monday, Mar. 5, 2012 12:00 am  

Opportunity came knocking loudly for John Olaimey when Southern Bancorp Inc. decided to look outside the company this year to hire a president and CEO of its namesake bank.

Tapped by Southern Bancorp's chairman and CEO Walter Smiley, Olaimey restarted his four-year banking career after leaving Little Rock's Centennial Bank in 2008.

Smiley's offer opened the door for Olaimey to not only step back into banking after a three-year hiatus but to lead one of the largest lenders in Arkansas.

Olaimey, 42, made the leap from being executive vice president and chief operating officer of a $228.9 million-asset banking concern at Centennial to becoming president, CEO and a director of a $1.1 billion one at Arkadelphia's Southern Bancorp Bank.

One advisory board resignation followed Olaimey officially joining the bank last month. It is unclear how much the move had to do with management changes since Smiley assumed control of Southern Bancorp Inc. a year ago.

Ronald Echols, an Arkadelphia CPA, resigned on Feb. 20 from the advisory board for Southern Bancorp's western banking operations in Arkadelphia, Hot Springs, Bismarck, Malvern and El Dorado. Why did he leave?

"I really had rather not comment on that," said Echols, who had served 12 years on the advisory board. "There are still some quality people over there, and I just don't think I should say anything."

The changes join the dismantling of Southern Bancorp's succession plan after the departures of Phil Baldwin as president and CEO of the holding company and bank and Brent Black as senior vice president and chief financial officer last year and the replacement of Baldwin's successor at the bank, Scott Fife, with Olaimey.

Walter Morris Jr., a Southern Bancorp Bank director and president of H&M Lumber Co. in Helena, declined to comment about changes at the bank, deferring to Dominik Mjartan, senior vice president and a spokesman for Southern Bancorp.

"I don't really have any comment," Morris said. "You need to talk with Dom about that, to keep on message."

Asked to talk about the search to find a new president and CEO for Southern Bancorp Bank, the company provided this statement through Mjartan:

"We did not conduct a formal search for a CEO of the bank. Most banks do not do a formal executive search when there are local candidates that meet the job requirements.

"Walter knew John only professionally, having worked with him at Centennial Bank, and was impressed with his intellect, drive, and most of all, his management ability.



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