When Greg McKinney joined Bank OZK in June 2003, the public company had a different name, $1.1 billion in total assets and 409 staffers.
These days, the Little Rock-based lender ranks among the 100 largest banks in the nation with total assets of $26.8 billion and a workforce of 2,800 spread across 250 offices in a 10-state footprint.
“It’s amazing how much this bank has changed in the 17-plus years I’ve been here and how those changes have challenged you,” said McKinney, chief financial officer at Bank OZK since year-end 2010.
“We work hard, but it’s not just all work. There is fun to it, and work here is not a place you have to drag yourself to.”
He began his tenure at the company as senior vice president and controller. Along the way, McKinney was promoted to executive vice president in 2006 and named to the Bank OZK board of directors in 2014.
Growth at the company was jump-started by the purchase of seven failed banks in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Texas during 2010-11 in transactions assisted by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
“I missed my wife’s birthday on the first acquisition,” McKinney said. “I missed the first day of school on the second one. I missed our anniversary on the third and got home Christmas Eve after the fourth one.”
During that era of unusual opportunities, successful bids for insolvent lenders were followed by hectic days of moving quickly over a weekend on what amounted to a shotgun marriage between banks. “There was no courting or getting to know you,” McKinney said. “Starting at the close of business Friday, it was often a 54-hour, non-sleep marathon to evaluate the bank and its people, products and services.
“Our goal was to have all that figured out before we opened Monday morning. It was a big puzzle you had to put together, and sometimes you had to take it apart and put it back together again.”
After those post-2008 financial meltdown opportunities, Bank OZK’s growth was fueled by a string of conventional acquisitions in North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia.
McKinney didn’t envision leading an accounting group at a public company or have aspirations of becoming a CFO when he first began to imagine the possibilities afforded by an accounting degree.
“It certainly didn’t happen before college,” he said. “In high school, I was good in math, and somebody said I ought to be an engineer. I knew I wanted to go to college, so when I went, I started in engineering at Louisiana Tech.”
After early coursework at the Ruston campus, McKinney re-examined engineering as a possible vocation. His dad suggested taking some business courses to gain some business sense that would benefit him whatever he decided to do. “Something about the debits and credits clicked in accounting,” said McKinney, who grew up in El Dorado.
He started his accounting career with the Little Rock office of KPMG, where he rose to senior audit manager. During his nearly 10 years with the firm, McKinney gained a lot of experience auditing banks and helped two ventures go public: Loislaw.com of Van Buren and Infineon Technologies, a Siemens subsidiary. His work on that second IPO occurred in Germany during a rotation to KPMG’s Munich office.
He worked briefly as an audit manager at Moore Stephens Frost after the Little Rock firm acquired KPMG’s local operations in March 2000.
Before joining Bank OZK, McKinney did a two-year stint at another Arkansas public company, Acxiom Corp., where he was a member of the company’s financial leadership team.