Dabbs Cavin, Arkansas' Newest CEO, On The Rebirth of First Federal Bancshares

by George Waldon  on Friday, Mar. 30, 2012 4:08 pm  

Dabbs Cavin, CEO of First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc.

Dabbs Cavin holds the distinction of being the newest CEO among those heading public companies in Arkansas.

Cavin began serving as the top executive at $590 million-asset First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc. four months ago and has been busy helping sort through the Harrison company's troubled financials for about a year.

This week, Arkansas Business published profiles of the state's 17 public company CEOs, featuring new interviews with top executives including Cavin.

At March 31, 2011, First Federal's total nonaccrual loans stood at $51.3 million. The tally was down to $33.9 million at Dec. 31 when the company recorded a $7.3 million loss for the year.

"We've been moving as rapidly as we can through our asset quality problems," Cavin said.

The door was opened for his ascension to CEO when Bear State Financial Holdings LLC struck a deal to recapitalize First Federal with $55 million last year.

The Arkansas investment group, which assumed majority control of First Federal, includes Little Rock businessmen Rick Massey, named chairman of the board after the transaction; former Alltel executives Joe and Scott Ford; Witt Stephens Jr., co-chairman and CEO of the Stephens Group LLC; Gus Blass III, general partner with Capital Properties LLC and principal with Falcon Securities Inc.; and Ron Cameron, chairman and CEO of Mountaire Corp., for whom Cavin previously worked.

The deal included a $46.3 million infusion of cash from Bear State and an $8.7 million stock offering. Repaying the $16.5 million First Federal received from the federal TARP program at a 64 percent discount was a component of cleaning up the balance sheets.

"We're making a major investment in technology and people to build a high-performance banking organization," Cavin said. "We've opened a loan production office in Little Rock and hired a strong banking team. We want to provide a fun, fresh, strong bank dedicated to the communities we serve."

These days, Cavin divides half his time between Little Rock with the balance spent in Harrison and northwest Arkansas offices. He believes the company is poised to grow and is positioned to catch the resurgence of the northwest Arkansas real estate market.

"We've seen it bottom out, and we're seeing some incremental improvement," Cavin said. "We want to get our appropriate market share.

"We'd like to increase our market shares in our other markets, and we believe there's room to do so."

To learn more about Dabbs Cavin, click here.

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