Dabbs Cavin

Executive vice chairman of the board

First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc.



Dabbs Cavin

Dabbs Cavin began serving as the top executive at $590 million-asset First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc. in 2011, helping sort through the Harrison company's troubled financials.

Total nonaccrual loans stood at $51.3 million at March 31, 2011. 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."

In 2013, Christopher Wewers became CEO, and Cavin became executive vice chairman of the company and bank boards.

Career Path

1986: Graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a bachelor's degree in finance with an emphasis in banking.

1986-89: Regulatory examiner with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas.

1989-92: Attended law school at the University of Arkansas at Little and briefly worked at Little Rock's Rose Law Firm.

1992-95: Worked at Metropolitan National Bank, exiting as a commercial loan officer.

1995-96: Worked in private banking at Citizens First Bank of Little Rock and First Commercial Bank of Little Rock after FDH Bancshares Inc., the holding company of Citizens, was acquired by First Commercial Corp.

1996-2005: Helped form and was part of the executive team at Pinnacle Bank of Little Rock, which was purchased in 2002 by BancorpSouth Inc. of Tupelo, Miss., and stayed aboard three more years with BancorpSouth.

2005-06: Helped launch the Little Rock operations of Summit Bank of Arkadelphia.

2006-07: Moved with family to Africa to help start Rwanda Urwego Opportunity Bank, a micro-lender. "That was the toughest, most fun thing I've done in my life."

2007-08: Returned to Little Rock to rejoin Summit Bank as executive vice president.

2008-11: Assistant to Ron Cameron, chairman and CEO of Mountaire Corp. of Little Rock.