CFO of the Year Finalists (Large Bank Category): Fred Wilcox

Fred Wilcox celebrated his 40th year in banking in September, and the Greene County native intends to continue his enjoyable career.

An industry undergoing change attracted him to banking all those years ago, and ongoing changes provide new challenges that keep things fresh today.

“The people that I work with have become like members of my family,” he said. “I plan to work as long as I can and don’t plan on retiring. But I know some day I’ll probably have to.”

Wilcox is executive vice president and chief financial officer of Paragould’s First National Bank, with total assets of more than $684 million and a staff of 144. He also manages the bond portfolio at the bank he has called home since November 1984.

Wilcox entered banking in September 1971 when he joined Security Bank of Paragould. During his 12 years with the company, Wilcox worked as internal auditor, bookkeeping manager, operations manager and manager of the loan department before rising to executive vice president, CFO and bond portfolio manager.

His tenure at Security Bank included working under the leadership of the late Marlin Jackson, renowned northeast Arkansas banker and Arkansas State Bank commissioner.

“He had a great influence on me,” Wilcox said of Jackson.

In May 1984, Wilcox was hired as president of Clark County Bank in Gurdon. But that south Arkansas move proved short lived when family ties drew him back to Paragould, where he joined First National.

His resume of volunteer and civic work in Paragould over the years includes stints as a youth baseball and basketball coach, leadership positions with the Chamber of Commerce, Greene County Fair Board and Rotary Club and work helping make the William E. Brewer Wildlife Management Area happen.

A star high school catcher, Wilcox attended Arkansas State University in Jonesboro on a partial athletic scholarship.

“My dream was to play for the Cardinals, like every other baseball-loving boy in northeast Arkansas,” he said. “I knew when I was going to college that I wanted to do something in business, but at that point, I wasn’t sure what.”

Wilcox graduated with a major in general business and minor in accounting from ASU in 1969. He started his professional career as an auditor with the Memphis accounting firm of Touche Ross & Co. and became a certified public accountant in 1971.

His management philosophy follows a five-point plan: 1) Do it right the first time, and you won’t have to do it again. 2) Treat your customers, family and fellow employees as you would like them to treat you. 3) Listen to advice. 4) Pay attention to details. 5) Analyze and pay attention to your competitors.