CFO of the Year Finalists (Small Bank Category): Hunter W. Johnson

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011 12:00 am  

Hunter W. JohnsonSenior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating OfficerWarren Bank & Trust Co. (Photo by Jason Burt)

See, we told you so.

Two years ago, when Arkansas Business introduced a new feature called “20 in Their 20s,” Hunter Johnson was a member of the very first group. And at 28, he would still be eligible for that feature. But instead, he’s now a finalist for CFO of the Year in the small bank category.

Johnson is a hometown boy, born and raised in Warren. He studied finance at Ouachita Baptist University at Arkadelphia with an eye toward a banking career, but he found the big city a hard nut to crack.

“I never thought I would come back to Warren,” he said. “I wanted to be in Little Rock, but I couldn’t really break into the banking scene.”

He worked in sales for HRD Consultants before getting an offer to join Warren Bank & Trust as assistant vice president and assistant trust officer in January 2006. He was promoted to vice president later that year, then to senior vice president and CFO in 2008. He added the role of chief operating officer in August 2009.

There’s a reason small banks are in a different category from larger ones: The CFO job can be very different — and it’s a difference that Johnson has grown to love.

“I love community banking because that’s where you get to deal with people the most. I know 90 percent of the people who walk in the door.”

At Warren Bank & Trust, he runs the trust department as well as handling marketing and community outreach programs. But more and more of his time is being spent making sure the bank is in compliance with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act.

“I do a lot more compliance now that Dodd-Frank is in place than I used to, which sort of takes me away from the customer side more than it used to,” Johnson said. “Dodd-Frank is so complex. Since it’s been implemented, I probably spend 25 to 30 percent of my time on that. And it has certainly increased the cost of business.”

He still tries to take two half-days each week to visit businesses in his community. Warren Bank & Trust has more than half of the deposit market in Bradley County, but customers have plenty of other choices. “My chairman” — that would be John B. Frazer Jr. — “told me that people may never do business with us — but they never will if you don’t ask them,” Johnson said.

Warren B&T had $134.8 million in assets as of Sept. 30 and net income of $1.45 million in the first three quarters of the year, a bit better than at the same point last year.

Although he has never worked with him, Johnson says the CEO he admires most is Tommy May of Simmons First National Corp.

“He’s just the nicest guy, and you just watch him and he’s so respected and admired,” Johnson said. “I my opinion, he’s the premier banker that I would most want to be like in this state.”

 

 

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