Bank of the Ozarks' George Gleason Reallocates Time to Oversee Loan Growth

Bank of the Ozarks' George Gleason Reallocates Time to Oversee Loan Growth
George Gleason, chairman and CEO of Bank OZK (Karen E. Segrave)

The real estate specialties group at Bank of the Ozarks has become a major contributor to commercial loan volume, accounting for more than $8 billion in loan originations last year.

George Gleason, chairman and CEO, reshuffled his duties earlier this year to devote about 75 percent of his time to the group, where that figure should approach $10 billion this year.

During the Sept. 11 Barclays Global Financial Services Conference Call, Gleason disclosed expectations that RESG business would double during the next three and a half to four years.

“We expect to redouble that business again over the seven- to eight- to nine-year period of time,” he said in the call. “So we are clearly focused on growing our commercial real estate business and continuing to do that.”

The bank’s concentration of commercial real estate lending has drawn additional regulatory scrutiny in the post-2008 landscape.

Gleason has said Bank of the Ozarks is perhaps the most conservative commercial real estate lender in the entire industry despite its growing presence on the national scene.

During the Sept. 11 conference call, Gleason said that he had always been active with the group and had approved every loan originated by RESG since its inception 14 years ago.

The change in his duties means he will be looking at deals sometimes as much as two weeks earlier in the loan process.

The decision to devote more of his workday to RESG preceded the July 28 exit of Dan Thomas, vice chairman, chief lending officer and president of the group. Gleason said the two events were coincidental.

“While I hadn’t anticipated Dan’s resignation, I had already planned to spend more time with the real estate specialties group in the second half of 2017, 2018 and 2019,” Gleason said in a recent interview with Arkansas Business.

He said the company has very detailed management succession plans for all of its operations, and that plan was executed the day Thomas announced his resignation.

“Dan’s decision came as a surprise, and I don’t fully understand his departure,” Gleason told Arkansas Business. “But the real estate specialties group was an excellent 108-person team before he left, and it became an excellent 107-person team after he left.

“That team is fully capable of doing everything they do today that they did the day before Dan left.”

Most of the group is based in Dallas with additional staff in offices that opened in Atlanta and Austin, Texas (2012); New York (2013); Los Angeles and Houston (2014); and San Francisco (2016).