The right partnership between lenders and business owners can mean success, but how successful that business becomes is contingent on much more than access to money.
In the past couple of years, Arvest Bank has made several changes to its services and offerings to empower business growth in the market.
Arvest has created a team comprising not only lending specialists, officials say, but also employees with backgrounds in economic development, cash management solutions, employee retention strategies, corporate investments and succession planning. The goal, they say, is to help customers become more profitable and sustainable businesses that are attractive to the workforce.
In recent years, the bank has focused on becoming an institution that fosters diverse thoughts and ideas. To that end, Arvest hired a diversity and inclusion officer and developed a diversity, equity and inclusion team. That team has developed Associate Impact Groups that help with personal or career development and work to identify businesses whose owners would fit in the various groups to provide support and advocate on their behalf.
Jason England, president and CEO in Springfield, says building local businesses begins with supporting the bank’s employees.
“It goes back to our ownership,” England says. “If you look at (our owners) Sam Walton and Jim Walton, if you take great care of your associates, they’ll take great care of your customers.”
England says the pandemic taught bank staff many lessons about the importance of being nimble and how to provide what customers need where and when they need it.
“We have implemented a new chief transformation officer,” England says. “We have invested a ton of money in just the culture of change, which was born a little out of COVID, but coaching our teams to be receptive to change. We have plans, policies and procedures on how we can help them embrace the changes that we go through.”
Arvest also has exhibited support for the community through its annual Million Meals campaign, which officials say has provided nearly 19 million meals in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma over the past 12 years.
In Springfield, associates have volunteered for Boys & Girls Clubs, the Ronald McDonald House, Ozarks Literacy Council, Salvation Army, The Y Gardens and Downtown Springfield Association, among others.
Arvest also has sponsored events and projects for nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity, Stomp the Blues Out of Homelessness, American Heart Association, Lost & Found Grief Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Good Dads and United Way of the Ozarks.
A baked goods vendor at Farmers Market of the Ozarks expanded to a brick-and-mortar operation; the first lending center for Old Missouri Bank opened; and London Calling Pasty Co. added a new food truck.