BOZ Bolsters NWA Market Share

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 156 views 

Going against the national grain of bank branch consolidation, an expansion is in the works locally for Little Rock-based holding company Bank of the Ozarks Inc.

BOZ, considered one of the most profitable banking companies in the U.S., is adding to its Northwest Arkansas market share this year by building three new retail bank offices in Siloam Springs, Springdale and Fayetteville.

The buildings are in various stages of construction, but when all three are finished, the publicly traded banking company will boost its number of branches in Benton and Washington counties from 10 to 13. Only Arvest Bank of Fayetteville (49) and First Security Bank (18) of Searcy will have more retail bank outlets in the two-county area.

BOZ executive vice president Susan Blair declined to give an estimate on the total cost to build the three new locations, saying only that it was a significant investment.

Each of the three sites is on a hard corner piece of property and were acquired by BOZ about 10 years ago for a combined $2.91 million.

Ross Mallioux, president of BOZ’s Northwest Arkansas division, said the company is opening accounts and adding new customers every day. The most recent Summary of Deposits report issued last fall by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) showed BOZ had a strong market share already in Benton County, with deposits of $115.3 million among its seven locations. That ranked No. 5 among the 27 banks with at least one brick-and-mortar branch office in the county.

“We’ve had so much success up here the last several years, and we want to keep it going,” Mallioux said. “We’re on a roll, and we’re going to keep it going.”

Mallioux said the strategy for growth in Northwest Arkansas is two-fold: providing convenient locations for face-to-face interaction between customers and bank employees, while also being mindful of the proliferation of internet banking options.

“We’re kind of running down two paths,” he explained. “We don’t believe that people just want to do their banking in the branch; we also believe they want technology. We want to provide the best in smartphone apps and online banking and bill pay, but we also want personal relationships with our customers. Granted, they don’t go inside a bank as much as they used to, but we want them to be able to go into a bank when they need to.”


Money to Invest

BOZ, with operations in nine states and $9.87 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, reported income of $182.3 million in 2015, and the new construction activity is a small reflection of the hefty profits.

Besides the three Arkansas branches being built this year, BOZ is also building two new offices in Georgia and North Carolina.

BOZ had a soft opening April 1 for its first Siloam Springs branch, situated on a 1.5-acre site at the hard-corner intersection of U.S. Highway 412 and East Main Street. It represents the company’s eighth Benton County office, its 82nd Arkansas office and its 177th branch office overall.

The 3,596-SF, single-story building was built by Turnkey Construction Management of Fort Smith, using a building permit valued at $1.13 million.

Mallioux said the branch opened with four employees and has “room to grow” with more. Julie Coonrod is the branch manager.

BOZ currently has two locations in Fayetteville, and NAPA Construction LLC of Fayetteville is using a building permit valued at $1.17 million to build the third, a 3,596-SF building situated on a one-acre site at the southeast corner of Vantage Drive and East Joyce Boulevard. It’s scheduled to open in mid-May.

Site work for BOZ’s second Springdale location is nearing completion at the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 412 and Gutensohn Road. Massey Construction of Little Rock was the low bidder for the project, which should be delivered in about six months.

Craig Curzon, a principal of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects in Fayetteville, worked with BOZ’s in-house facilities group to design the three new buildings. Staff architect Russell Worley and interior designer Laura Lyon, also with PSW, assisted on the project.

“Our firm has done a number of banks over the years, and we’re certainly excited to see Bank of the Ozarks expanding in Arkansas,” Curzon said. “We’re excited to be a part of the work.”

Besides the standing seam metal roofing that is a signature of BOZ branch locations, Mallioux noted that the interior of each branch will display artwork provided by J.P. Bell Photography of Fayetteville.

BOZ is one of Bell’s major clients, and his black-and-white photographs of local images are hung in branch locations throughout the bank’s multi-state footprint.

Mallioux said after the branch buildout is complete, he will move his primary office from Rogers to the new Fayetteville location.

If all three branches perform well, more new offices could follow.

“There is nothing off the table with this company,” he said. “We’re doing well and we’re going to continue to do well. If there are opportunities that make sense, we’re pretty aggressive about capitalizing on opportunities.”