J. French Hill, Chairman of Delta Trust & Bank, on Encouraging Business Trends

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 12:00 am  

J. French Hill

French Hill, in addition to running the 27th-largest bank chartered in Arkansas, is chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce for 2013.

Q: What kind of year did Delta Trust & Bank have in 2012, and how will 2013 be different?

A: Delta Trust had a record year in 2012 in net income, earning just over $4.4 million. During the past four years, we have been blessed by profitable growth created by our trust and financial advisers, bankers and valued clients. We believe that our focus on core services of banking, trust and investments provides a strategic advantage. In 2013, banks will face continued earnings pressure from the interest rate policies pursued by the Federal Reserve. Due to our significant fee income businesses, we will fare as well as any of our competitors.

What business trends do you find most frightening? What business trends do you find most encouraging?

Personally, I am concerned with the relentless imperative to solve all problems with a federal governmental solution. Our national indebtedness is a shame. The “frightening” aspect to it is that all businesses are just overwhelmed by the regulatory burden and paperwork. It ferments a bureaucratic and risk-averse tendency amongst business personnel. On a brighter note, I love the extraordinary spirit of the American innovator who — despite obstacles and bureaucrats — seeks to build a better mousetrap, thereby enriching our national income and optimism for the future.

When you look at the banking industry, do you wish you had chosen a different career? Do you still harbor other ambitions?

During college, my career goal was to be an investor and entrepreneur. Over the past 30 years I have been fortunate to do exactly that. In recent years, it has been immensely gratifying to watch Delta Trust grow from just an idea in 1999 to a successful enterprise with $438 million in bank assets and over $1.2 billion in trust and investment assets at the end of 2012. My life and my work were enhanced by two tours of duty in public service: as a Senate staffer on the Banking Committee and later working for President George H.W. Bush at the U.S. Treasury and as a member of his White House staff. I have had the unique opportunity to explore many different professional endeavors over the years. I like to think of one’s career as chapters in a book, and I am always looking forward to the next chapter.

What’s the smartest business decision you ever made?

Following graduation from Vanderbilt in 1979, I moved to Dallas, Texas. Dallas afforded me amazing growth in my early career and led me to a lifetime of happiness in finance and marriage.

What’s the biggest business mistake you ever made, and what did you learn from it?

I have learned over the years to always ask questions and never make assumptions. You need accurate information to make informed decisions. I follow President Reagan’s advice from U.S.-Soviet arms control talks: “Dovorey no provorey” — trust, but verify.



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