Ron Witherspoon Listens More and Talks Less as Arvest's CEO in Little Rock


Ron Witherspoon Listens More and Talks Less as Arvest's CEO in Little Rock
Witherspoon has worked for Arvest Bank, with more than $26 billion in assets, since 1997. (Jason Masters)

Ron Witherspoon has been named local bank president and CEO for the Arvest Bank in Little Rock, a territory that includes parts of central and southwest Arkansas, effective Nov. 1. Witherspoon previously had been local bank president for Arvest in Oklahoma City since March 2014. Before that, he served as sales manager in Little Rock from 2001-2014. Witherspoon succeeds Jim Cargill, who will retire at the end of the year.

Witherspoon is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, the American Bankers Association School of Bank Marketing and Management at the University of Colorado, and the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.

How important, in terms of assets, is the central Arkansas region to Arvest?

It’s one of three markets in our company that have $3 billion or more in assets; it’s one of three that serves more than 100,000 households; it has more than 450 employees at 29 branches and it’s still a growth market. The importance of the central Arkansas market cannot be overstated.

What new business lines are you looking to attract?

I’d say we’re doubling down on four specific areas where we already have robust business. Those are health care, agriculture, skilled labor and real estate.  

What similarities and differences do you see between the Little Rock and Oklahoma City markets?

Besides being capital cities centrally located in their respective states, the two cities are like-minded in terms of governance and position on environmental and social issues. Little Rock has the more diverse economy, but both cities are working to diversify further with focus on attracting aerospace and technology companies, for example.

What was the impetus for the digital transformation Arvest is undertaking?

A transition to more digital offerings was already on the horizon for banks. However, the  pandemic amplified digital demand, forcing the industry to begin an evolution that was likely still a few years away by shining a spotlight on digital deficiencies such as the need to provide real-time account information to customers, to move to cloud computing networks to enhance agility and to develop and implement new data platforms for better research outcomes and analytics. We know that if banks are to remain successful and sustainable, they will have to embrace change. To reflect this notion, Arvest recently added to its core values the phrase “drive change.”

What has been the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

The old adage: You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listening, observing, paying attention are more important than speaking. I know it’s become a cliché, but I can remember when I had the opportunity to go from Little Rock to Oklahoma City, I received an email from a mentor, and I still carry it around with me in my bag today. It’s all tattered, but it says listen more and talk less! 

What do the fundamentals of banking look like now with so much economic chaos looming?

At Arvest, we strive to serve our customers and our communities when the economy is doing great and when conditions are more volatile. Whatever the economic conditions are, our mission remains the same — people helping people find financial solutions for life. And in our customer’s lifetimes, there will be times of economic growth, economic contraction, housing booms and housing bubbles. Strong, reliable banks are able to serve their customers in any situation.