Candace A. Franks: Regulating Banks at the Worst Possible Time

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Mar. 29, 2010 12:00 am  

In 1980, Candace Franks had been exercising her new law license for only a few months in the Arkansas Attorney General's Office when she heard the staff attorney at the State Bank Department was retiring.

Since the Bank Department job paid more, Franks - 26 years old, barely 5 feet tall and universally known as "Candy" - boldly submitted an application and managed to get an interview with the commissioner, Beverly J. Lambert Jr., who was 72 years old. His age alone was enough to persuade Franks' husband, State Farm Insurance agent Roger Franks, that she didn't stand a chance.

"I think it was really to his credit that he did offer me the position," Franks says 30 years later.

Lambert was the first of five commissioners Franks worked for before Gov. Mike Beebe made her the state's 21st bank commissioner on June 13, 2007. All her predecessors were male, of course, and the top executives of banks in Arkansas are still overwhelmingly male, a phenomenon Franks is at a loss to explain. But despite all the testosterone in the industry, she said, she never had any problems being accepted.

Learning From Masters

The commissioners she served as general counsel and with the additional title of deputy commissioner starting in 1995 - Lambert, Marlin Jackson, Bill Ford, Frank White and Robert "Bunny" Adcock - were as different as the seasons. And, unlike Franks, they had all been businessmen and bankers before becoming regulators.

"Having not ever worked in a bank, I don't see that as a disadvantage for being the bank commissioner," she said. "I've experienced banking every day for 30 years."

And she had the benefit of seeing the different approaches of her former bosses.

"I really have incorporated things I learned from each of them," she said. For instance, Ford - "a great administrator" - organized an executive committee that met every Monday morning. And even though e-mail has made instant group communication easier, "I do that now with my staff, and that's very useful for me and for the committee."

Like Jackson, she sends one of her deputies to every board meeting of every bank that needs what Franks delicately called "additional monitoring." In his typical style, Jackson called these "Special Opportunity Banks" and the staffers who attended their meetings the "SOB Team."

Her department continues to offer the banks it regulates a "monthly self-examination" reporting tool that allows the department to make a quick assessment of a bank's condition and provides trend lines so the banks can see how they stack up against their peers. Although the self-exam is voluntary, 92 of the 100 state-chartered banks in Arkansas participate, Franks said.

Keeping state-chartered banks healthy is what the Arkansas State Bank Department does. Banks pay for the work of the Bank Department through annual assessments based on asset size, but the department's ultimate responsibility is to the public.



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