Jonathan Baird of Peoples Bank (CFO of the Year Finalist, Small Bank)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 12:00 am  

Jonathan Baird

Jonathan Baird represents the fifth generation in the family business at Peoples Bank of Magnolia. His great-great-grandfather was among the investors who started the bank in 1910. His mother, Mary Fowler, is the current president and CEO.

Over the years, Baird worked in a variety of roles at the bank before joining the management team.

He became chief financial officer of the $125 million-asset bank in 2008 and helped the company embark on a bond investment strategy that has added about $4 million to the bottom line since then.

“If we hadn’t done what we’d done, we certainly wouldn’t be where we’re at,” the 33-year-old executive said. “We would’ve made far less money, and the future would have been far less bright without these strategies.

“We basically have been leveraging our ability to borrow money at low rates and invest in higher rate investments. That has driven our earnings these past five years.”

The move to boost the bank’s profits through unconventional means was made in response to historically low interest rates and historically high regulatory costs.

“I didn’t have a lot of preconceptions,” Baird said. “We did draw some additional regulatory scrutiny, but we’ve been vindicated.

“We’ve stuck with what we know, and it’s worked out great for us. It’s been a great five years for the bank.”

The decision was a reflection of his willingness to think creatively to identify opportunities as well as a willingness to defend the investment strategy.

“We’ve made our case that we’re safe and sound, and we continue to thrive and survive,” he said.

Baird grew up around Peoples Bank, which provided a foundational interest in banking. He started as a check filer at 15.

Baird became interested in finance in particular during college and finished up his coursework after earlier studies. He graduated from Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia with bachelor’s degrees in marketing in 2001 and finance in 2010.

Sandwiched between his coursework at SAU, he worked part time at the bank, obtained a master’s in divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in 2005 and became a certified financial planner in 2007.

“The bank is my biggest financial planning client,” Baird said.

In addition to his duties at the bank, he puts certified financial planning credentials to work at Mustard Seed, a fee-only registered investment advisory launched in 2005.

Baird is president of the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce and a director at the Magnolia Economic Development Corp.

His past civic duties include serving as a member of the SAU Business Advisory Council and the Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center board of directors.



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