Greg McKinney of Bank of the Ozarks (Large Bank Category Finalist)

Some of the chief financial officers in this year’s awards program found their place in life almost by accident. Greg McKinney is not one of those accidental CFOs.

By the time he finished his accounting degree at Louisiana Tech University, he had set his sights on becoming CFO of a publicly traded company. McKinney, now 44, achieved that goal in 2011 at Bank of the Ozarks Inc., one of the most respected banking companies in the country.

Prior to joining Bank of the Ozarks as controller in 2003, McKinney spent 10 years in public accounting and a couple of years as part of the financial leadership team at Acxiom Corp. in Little Rock.

As important as historical accounting is — how much money came in and how much went out — McKinney wanted to “have a hand in the strategic direction of the business and be a catalyst for growth.”

Be careful what you wish for. Even before his promotion to CFO, McKinney’s modeling and predictive powers were being put to the test by Bank of the Ozark’s aggressive pursuit of FDIC-assisted acquisitions since the bank-sector meltdown in 2008.

McKinney began developing a proprietary spreadsheet for financial modeling, and it is being run by some of the senior accountants on his staff of eight CPAs and 12 non-CPAs.

“It has probably a dozen and a half different tabs that work back and forth,” he said. It is designed to do short-term projections, longer-term budgeting and “a lot of modeling and what-if analysis. What if we change a rate here? What if we offer a special rate in certain markets, what will that do?”

In the past two and a half years, BOZ has acquired seven banks and has bid on approximately 125 of them. McKinney’s spreadsheet has been expanded, tweaked, polished and improved in order to determine which banks are worth bidding on and what BOZ’s bid should be in order to make the most of a potential acquisition.

“The guys who run it for me today have really taken it to the next level,” he said. Fortune-telling is still an imperfect science — “They are all forward-looking projections, so over time, every one of them is wrong to some extent,” McKinney said — but Bank of the Ozarks is not backing away from its acquisitive strategy, even though FDIC activity has slowed this year.

“There were 732 problem banks on the FDIC’s list as of June 30. In our thoughts, there are probably 100 to 150 of those that will get closed, and that will give us another 100 to 150 opportunities to bid on failed banks,” McKinney said.

“Even if the number of closures does stay low, there’s going to be a large number of what I’ve heard people call ‘zombie banks’, and there’s going to be a number of opportunities to do transactions with those banks.”

Buy your tickets to the CFO of the Year Awards Luncheon to show your support for Greg.