Phil Baldwin, Citizens Bank of Batesville (CFO Lifetime Achievement Award)

Phil Baldwin, Citizens Bank of Batesville (CFO Lifetime Achievement Award)
Phil Baldwin

Phil Baldwin held the post of chief financial officer for a little over a decade at four stops during his 36-year career. That experience positioned him to become a statistic in a national trend among business executives.

“CFOs are more and more being tapped to become CEOs,” said Baldwin, president and CEO of the $751 million-asset Citizens Bank in Batesville.

Looking back on his time as a CFO, the 58-year-old said he especially enjoyed the different demands and roles of budgeting, projecting results, mergers and acquisitions, debt financing and even personnel.

“The fun thing about being a CFO is helping the ownership and leadership accomplish their goals,” Baldwin said. “I’m always proud of growing a company.”

The Little Rock native built a dual career of helping grow for-profit and nonprofit ventures alike.

Among his notable achievements was directing the growth of Arkadelphia’s Southern Bancorp into America’s largest rural development bank. During his two-year stint as CFO and nine-year run as CEO, Southern Bancorp grew from $250 million in assets to more than $1 billion.

Along the way, Baldwin also worked in Little Rock as director of corporate finance and reporting at Dillard’s Inc., vice president of finance at Fairfield Communities Inc. and senior manager at Ernst & Young Accounting.

“I’ve always been interested in numbers,” he said.

Baldwin intended to go to law school after graduating in 1980 from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. That changed when he was talked into becoming a certified public accountant while interviewing for a summer internship at the Little Rock office of Ernst & Young.

“I’ve never regretted that at all and enjoyed my time at Ernst & Young,” Baldwin said.

Work in the accounting firm’s banking services group led to an opportunity to enter banking in 1992 as CFO at FDH Bancshares Inc., the Little Rock holding company for Frank Hickingbotham’s banking interests.

When FDH Bancshares sold to Little Rock’s First Commercial Corp. in 1995, he became CFO of Hickingbotham Investments.

In 1996, Baldwin became part of an executive cadre who helped organize and launch Little Rock’s Pinnacle Bank, where he served as executive vice president and CFO.

He left the startup bank in March 2000 to join Southern Bancorp as CFO. The dual mission of commerce and charity intrigued him, and the allure of nonprofit/for-profit work has colored his career ever since.

Promoted to president and CEO in 2002, Baldwin helped the company establish a national reputation for blending community development banking with nonprofit efforts in communities in southern and eastern Arkansas and western Mississippi.

In 2010, Southern, with Baldwin at its helm, was named one of the top five social entrepreneurs in America by Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

From Southern Bancorp, Baldwin moved on to Atlanta, where he served as CEO of CredAbility, a nonprofit credit counseling agency serving clients in all 50 states.

The opportunity to join Citizens Bank lured him back to Arkansas in 2013 to work his mix of profitable lending and community development fueled by expansion through organic growth and acquisition.

Baldwin is vice chairman of the Lyon College board of trustees and a founding board member of United Way Worldwide, where he serves as treasurer and chairman of the finance committee for the group’s board of trustees.

He is immediate past chairman of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and served on Emory University’s board of visitors.