Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Greg Martin, executive vice president and division president for the Northwest Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma markets for Simmons Bank, was senior vice president and area loan manager for Fayetteville-chartered Arvest Bank before joining the Pine Bluff-based company in 2015.
Martin, 42, had worked for Arvest for 10 years when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him to the Forty Under 40 class in 2012.
“Arvest was a great company. It’s a great bank, and I still really respect them now as a competitor,” Martin said. “The people there, the culture was all very aligned with what I wanted to do as far as being a banker there. I enjoyed my time there.”
In 2015, several area banks were recruiting Martin, but the opportunity or culture wasn’t right. However, when Simmons Bank offered him a chance to lead a market, Martin said the culture fit with the type of business he wanted to do.
In November 2015, he accepted a job as market president of Northwest Arkansas for Simmons Bank because of the opportunity, the culture, and how it does business as a “community-focused bank that’s a regional player,” he said. “At the time, they needed growth and leadership, and it was a good opportunity to get to lead an organization here in my hometown for a bank that I felt aligned with.”
In November 2019, the Fayetteville native was promoted to his current role, in which he continued to work in Northwest Arkansas and expanded oversight into the Kansas and Oklahoma markets. In Oklahoma, the bank’s footprint includes Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Stillwater and southern parts of the state. The Kansas market consists of the Wichita area.
“I work with the leadership in those individual markets to help set strategy and business development goals in bank management for their success in those individual communities,” he said. He’s responsible for six banking operations with more than 200 employees.
Martin started in the expanded role a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic began. He noted the Northwest Arkansas market experienced substantial growth in the years leading up to his promotion. The pandemic has contributed to a challenging market for the banking industry, including providing loans for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and helping clients work through difficult times, he explained.
Amid the pandemic, Simmons changed its retail and commercial operations to mitigate the spread of COVID. Initially, the bank closed its lobbies but maintained drive-thru services. Office employees worked remotely and have since returned to the office if they can do so safely. The bank had reopened its branches, but with the rising case numbers, it’s balanced how it serves customers from the drive-thru and within lobbies.
“It has been very disruptive,” Martin said. “The challenges around how that affects businesses means that we’ve got to be a very good steward for how we help our customers and how we’re able to give them the services they need to succeed. We also make sure we’re making good decisions for the bank, being prudent there. PPP… that adds into the COVID environment, and we originated just under $1 billion in total PPP loans as a company. Those are real dollars that helped real businesses stay afloat and to give them the resources that they need to continue to succeed in a challenging environment.”
The industry likely has faced more challenges than in the Great Recession as some businesses have experienced success during the pandemic while others struggle, he said. He’s hopeful COVID will have a smaller impact in 2021, and with the distribution of vaccines, he looks to grow his market.
Martin also expects his travel schedule to increase again once the pandemic ends. When he started in his current role, he was traveling three days a week. He’s traveling that much about once a month in the pandemic.
He and his wife, Betsy, have three children and reside in Fayetteville. He serves on the board for Habitat for Humanity of Washington County and is a volunteer for Fellowship Bible Church in Fayetteville and Meals on Wheels. Free time includes watching his children play youth sports, deer and duck hunting, and fishing.