Malliouxs People Personality Fitting Perfectly With BOZ

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 213 views 

There’s a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson that is a favorite of bank executive Ross Mallioux.

Put loosely, it is this: The harder I work, the luckier I seem to be.

That seems to jibe with how Mallioux’s career has unfolded.

Mallioux (pronounced MAY-you) — presently an executive with Little Rock-based Bank of the Ozarks Inc. — was 35 and senior vice president of Harrison-based First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc. in 1997 when he was included in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s inaugural Forty Under 40 class.

He had been with the publicly traded holding company since graduating from the University of Arkansas in 1984.

During a recent sit-down in his office on West New Hope Road in Rogers, Mallioux said the company’s culture was tailor-made to foster his personality as a people person.

“A bank has the same green money as any other bank,” he said. “What sets us apart are relationships with people and what we do with those. Bankers have to like people and treat them well, and if you do that, it’s really a pretty fun business.”

Through hard work, the Harrison native rose up the ranks and by 2011 was in a prominent position as president of First Federal’s western division.

“It started out being a lot of fun,” Mallioux said. “The last few years, not so much.”

Mallioux was referring to the economic downturn in Northwest Arkansas and across the country, but the less-than-fun times also included an abrupt end to his nearly three decades with First Federal.

In spring 2011, shareholders approved a deal that sold majority ownership of the company to a Little Rock investment group, Bear State Financial Holdings LLC.

What followed is what normally happens in the wake of an acquisition.

“The new owners brought in a lot of their own people, and I get that,” he said. “After the new team came in from Little Rock and made a considerable reduction in staff, I was certainly grateful and fortunate that they kept me on.

“But it didn’t feel right.”

Sensing it was time for a change, Mallioux began seeking other banking opportunities. Bank of the Ozarks, he said to himself, was known throughout the industry as a top-performing, highly regarded institution, so he started there.

And from there, luckily for Mallioux, events unfolded rather quickly.

“I contacted [BOZ president and CEO] George Gleason and the next thing I knew I was talking to [BOZ Northwest Arkansas division president] Harvey Williams and the next thing I knew I was here and bringing two guys with me,” he said. “I am very grateful and very blessed.”

In early August, Mallioux began with BOZ as market president for Benton and Washington counties.

Jason Wallis and John Summers, who spent 16 and 10 years, respectively, working at First Federal, joined him.

“There are a lot of great people throughout North Central and Northwest Arkansas that have been [at First Federal] a long time, many of them I hired, and I wish those folks the best,” Mallioux said. “I just liked the culture and the opportunities here better. This is more in line with how I’m wired and, man, am I enjoying it.”

Mallioux, who will celebrate his 50th birthday in July, described BOZ as having the great combination of a customer-oriented community bank with a balance sheet that has the “horsepower” of a large regional.

In fact, SNL Financial LC of Charlottesville, Va., recently ranked BOZ as the top performing regional lender in the nation.

“We’re able to do just about anything for anybody, but that only works if you have the customer service culture that we have to back it up,” he said.

Mallioux, a member of several boards and organizations and a past member of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said any free time these days is reserved for his family. His wife, Terri, is in the communications business and Trevor, an avid junior tennis player, is a seventh-grader at McNair Middle School in Fayetteville.

And what does Mallioux forecast for himself the next 15 years?

“I don’t know that anybody in his or her right mind, with this economy, could predict that far out,” he said, with a laugh. “But I hope I am doing something I enjoy. And I enjoy being a banker, so I suspect I will be doing that. And I hope I’m doing it here.”