At Centennial Bank, Jeff Hildebrand Expands 'Delivery' Area

Arkansas Business 20th Annual 40 Under Forty
The original Class of 1998 profiles
2013 Updates from this week's digital edition of Arkansas Business.

Jeff Hildebrand is still taking his own advice, and it continues to serve him well.

Hildebrand, Centennial Bank CLO for the Little Rock region, was a member of Arkansas Business’ 40 Under 40 Class of 1998 while working as senior vice president for One National Bank in Little Rock.

He said then and believes now in his mantra “Don’t promise something you can’t deliver.”

“I still believe in it as far as the under-promise and over-deliver theory,” Hildebrand, 50, said. “I still believe in that.”

Whether working in his own neck of the woods or traveling to help set up newly acquired banks in Florida, Hildebrand stresses his philosophy to his lending officers. “You have to exceed expectations,” he said.

Raised in Stuttgart, Hildebrand thought he would someday wind up running the family farm, but after a year in college he began to have different thoughts. A meeting with banking pioneer B. Finley Vinson opened Hildebrand’s eyes to banking.

“I was intrigued,” said Hildebrand, who got the key introduction through Vinson’s son, a family friend, and began his career as a credit analyst at Little Rock’s First Commercial Bank in 1985.

Publicly traded under the Home Bancshares name, Centennial Bank has locations in Florida and Alabama and throughout central Arkansas. That means occasional travel for Hildebrand even though he is responsible for the Little Rock region. “It depends on what region you’re talking about,” Hildebrand said.

But wherever he is, Hildebrand enjoys dealing with a diverse group of businesses. “I’ve got some I’ve banked my entire career and they’ve grown and gotten bigger or sold out to larger companies,” Hildebrand said. “We have to be their partner. We have to be available to them.”

For every success story or big sale for profit, however, there have been tough times too, especially during the Great Recession. However, Hildebrand said, last year was profitable and 2013 is off to a good start. “We’re looking to continue to grow,” he said.