Natalie Bartholomew is a career community banker with more than 21 years in the business and is a fifth-generation family farmer in northwest Arkansas. She joined First Community Bank in 2022 to create and develop a new market and team in northwest Arkansas. In 2017, she launched the Girl Banker platform that serves as a voice of advocacy for women in banking and young women considering careers in finance. The platform involves the Girl Banker Podcast, a robust social media community, and speaking engagements across the country.
She serves on various local philanthropic committees and boards and was recently appointed to the American Banking Association Bank Marketing Advisory Board. Natalie and her husband, Colt, reside in Prairie Grove with their sons Brody and Witten.
What is your vision for your business and our community?
I’ve taken a regional approach to new customer acquisition and the recruitment of my team. While NWA has its own unique cities and towns, the region as a whole works in tandem. My team has experience and contacts throughout the entire region, which has led to our organic growth and success so far. Our hope is to stay true to our bank’s name and give as much back to our community as possible.
When I launched the Girl Banker platform, I never really had an endgame in mind other than to create a community of women in banking and to change the narrative around young women and careers in banking. I feel that over the last five years, that community is strengthening and while we still have a lot of work to do, young women are learning that banking offers a wide array of opportunities beyond the stereotypical “banking” roles such as marketing, innovation and technology.
My hope is that as this platform continues to grow, that banks improve policies that affect their female employees the most, such as paid parental leave and hybrid work options.
What advice do you have for keeping a team focused and motivated in challenging times?
It’s in the challenging, difficult times that we grow the most. Focusing on what can be learned from a tough experience instead of focusing on what went wrong is a must. Being empathetic and authentic as a leader and as a teammate is essential. Your team needs to know that they are seen and heard.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It’s hard to pinpoint one highlight because different parts of my career have meant a lot depending upon the season of life I was in at that time. The launch of the Girl Banker platform was so important to me, but the continued growth and success of the community of women it has created has been even more important.
The opportunity to pull all of my experiences and skillsets together for my new role at First Community Bank is no doubt a highlight. Assembling our team and starting something new in northwest Arkansas might be one of my proudest career achievements. I’m so honored to work with this group of people.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life and career?
I have been fortunate to have numerous influences on my life and career. My late grandfather, Wilford H. Thompson, was a 45-year career community banker. Because of him, I have always wanted to be a banker, even when I was a little girl.
My mom and dad are also the epitome of hardworking, good people and if I’m half the person they are, I’m doing something right.
My husband, Colt, obviously has had a huge influence on my life, but also on my career. We have a true partnership that involves a lot of give and take, sharing of all parenting and household responsibilities, in addition to the demands of our work. There have been numerous times where his support and advice have kept me going. It’s a tremendous asset to me to have that level of support at home.
Tell us the most meaningful piece of career or life advice you have received.
My mentor, Allyson Dyer, told me once that “you train people how to treat you.” That mentality has been so meaningful in helping me set boundaries in the workplace and attempt to achieve balance with my family time. If we answer every work-related text and email after work hours, we train others to know that we are “on” 100% of the time. If we wait to answer them the following business day, others know they will receive an answer then. I know there can be exceptions to this train of thought, but for the most part, it goes a long way.
How do you like to de-stress after a difficult day/week?
With two young boys that are involved in a variety of sports, a demanding job, and an hour commute to the office, de-stressing often depends on the time of year. If it’s summertime, I love working in my yard, mowing, or with my plants. If it’s cold, and given my house is clean, you’ll find me parked on my couch binge-watching whatever I’m streaming at the moment. Oddly enough, cleaning the house makes me feel organized, collected, and as if I have everything in order, which reduces stress for me.