Lisa Ray moved from California to Northwest Arkansas in 1988, and met and married her husband that same year.
The newlyweds did something else that year.
“We put together a plan to work hard and live modestly so we could retire while we are still young and healthy enough to travel and go and do,” Lisa Ray said. “I am grateful that our 30-year plan worked out.”
Ray, a regional executive for Arvest Bank Group Inc. who has worked for the Fayetteville-based company since 1989, will retire from the bank, effective May 1. She will be replaced on an interim basis by agri lending consultant Cliff Gibbs, who will fill the position through Dec. 31. Gibbs, ironically, is the person Ray replaced as regional executive in 2016 upon Gibbs’ retirement from Arvest.
“The Arvest family will miss Lisa, but we are all happy for her,” Arvest Bank president and CEO Kevin Sabin said. “Everyone who has ever worked for or around Lisa considers her to be one of the finest leaders they have ever met, as well as one of the most sincere, caring and joyful people we’ve had in our organization. She uniquely combined humility, intellect and extraordinary listening skills throughout her career to lift others around her and contribute significantly to the growth and culture of Arvest.”
Ray, 56, spent her entire banking career with Arvest. With no financial background at all, she was offered a job at Bank of Bentonville (later Arvest) in 1989 by the bank’s president and CEO, then Burt Stacy. Before that she worked for Pepsi-Cola for five years in the ’80s, and was district sales manager when she departed in 1989.
Ray joined Arvest as a management trainee and worked in Bentonville as an investment advisor, deposit counselor supervisor and a deposit manager. In 1996, she became sales manager of Arvest’s Springdale Bank and Trust. After three years she returned to Arvest Bank of Bentonville to serve as sales manager.
She was named president and chief executive officer of Arvest Bank in Siloam Springs in July 2005, and later accepted an offer to become the president and chief executive officer of Arvest Bank in Springdale in April 2012. Ray was the first woman in the company’s history to fill the president/CEO role. Although all Arvest markets are technically part of the same Fayetteville charter, the company currently maintains 16 separate community banks in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, each with its own executive team and advisory board.
In May 2016, Ray assumed the role of one of the bank’s three regional executives, reporting directly to Sabin. She oversees five Arvest Bank markets that include Springfield and Joplin, Mo., and Benton County, Springdale and Siloam Springs in Arkansas. Don Walker and Brad Krieger are Arvest’s other two regional executives.
Ray and her husband, who retired two years ago, live in Tontitown. Ray said they are looking forward to traveling before the possibility of becoming grandparents enters the picture. They have a 24-year-old son and a 27-year-old daughter
“We’ve always had a dream for the future and really enjoyed having goals,” she said. “We decided that while we’re young we want to travel and explore the world, but if we ever have grandbabies we want to be extremely available for that. We have prepared for this. We never dreamed we’d be able to pull it off quite this early, but Arvest has been so good to me. We are excited for the next phase.”
Ray has been involved in a number of civic and nonprofit organizations throughout her career. She said she will keep ties with two of them – Downtown Springdale Alliance and Inseitz Group, a women’s empowerment group founded by former NorthWest Arkansas Community College President Becky Paneitz.
Arvest recently earned final regulatory approval of its $391 million acquisition of holding company Bear State Financial Inc. and its subsidiary, Bear State Bank N.A., of Little Rock. As a result of the merger, Arvest’s total asset value will near $20 billion, just behind publicly traded Bank of the Ozarks, the state’s largest bank.
Arvest is privately held with Jim Walton, son of Walmart Inc. co-founders Helen and Sam Walton, serving as chairman and CEO of Arvest Bank Group.
Following the Bear State Bank acquisition announcement last summer, Ray spoke about the merger with the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. The entire video is available below.