Bear State bulks up executive ranks, names new president and CFO of banking operations

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 219 views 

Bear State Financial Inc. continues to solidify its executive bench with this week’s announcement that the Little Rock bank’s board of directors made key promotions to its management ranks.

James Machen, currently Bear State’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, was promoted to president of the Little Rock financial holding company’s banking operations. In addition, Sherri Billings, the bank’s executive vice president and chief accounting officer, will take on a senior executive position as CFO and chief accounting officer of the holding company and operating bank subsidiary.

“This announcement highlights one of Bear State’s strongest attributes – the depth of our leadership team – which allows us to promote from within,” said Bear State President and CEO Mark McFatridge. “Both Matt and Sherri have played pivotal roles in the successful transformation of the legacy First Federal Bank into Bear State Bank as we know it today. Since May 2011, the company has seen a return to profitability and completed two acquisitions with Matt and Sherri overseeing crucial projects every step of the way. These promotions are a direct reflection of the expertise and leadership shaping the future for Bear State.”

While Machen takes over as top executive of Bear State’s banking operations, McFatridge will remain in his role as president and chief executive of the fast-growing parent company, whose board of directors is chaired by Rick Massey, the former legal counsel and top executive at Alltel Corp. Scott Ford, Alltel’s former CEO, is also a Bear State director and stockholder.

The promotions are significant as Bear State folds the former Metropolitan National Bank (MNB) of Springfield, Mo., into its overall financial operations. In the first quarter, the former First Federal Bank of Harrison consolidated MNB into Bear State Bank’s charter and converted MNB’s systems to the bank’s core technology platform.

After completing the MNB acquisition on Oct. 1, 2015, Bear State directors gave McFatridge, MNB’s former president and CEO, a position on the board and appointed him as the new president and chief executive officer of the Arkansas banking group.

Machen has been with Bear State since 2011 in a number of leadership roles, including his most recent position as CFO. He previously served as a regional president for Bear State forerunner Harrison-based First Federal Bank. Machen holds a finance degree from the University of Arkansas and is a board member of the Dean’s Alumni Advisory Council at the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business.

Billings has been with Bear State since 1979 and has held various senior positions with the parent company and its banking subsidiary from 2002 to 2014. A license certified public accountant, she will assume Machen’s responsibilities for all of Bear State’s financial statements and accounting.

In Wednesday’s early morning trading session, Bear State’s thinly traded shares were flat at $9.84 on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Today, Bear State Bank has 55 branches and three loan production offices throughout Arkansas, Southwest Missouri and Southeast Oklahoma.